Amid- the talks of euthanasia being revisited at the Supreme Court, Aruna Shanbaug’s fate is dangling by a thick thread-which is fraying each passing day.

The 65 year old has been lying in a vegetative state  at the BMC-run KEM hospital  since the past 40 years.

While earlier the Supreme Court had rejected the plea of  active euthanasia-where in a doctor injects a drug with the intent to stop vital functions of terminally ill patients,it is said that the guidelines will be relooked by a five-bench constituional  committe following a PIL.

In the Aruna Shanbaug case, the SC had earlier rejected the plea for active euthanasia.Following a public interest litigation filed by NGO Common cause contending that when a medical expert opines that if the person inflicted with a terminal disease has reached a point of no return, he should be given the right to  refuse to be kept on life support system.

It has laid down a guideline to be followed which is as stated below:-

 138. When an application is filed, the Chief Justice of the High Court should forthwith constitute a Bench of two judges  who should decide to grant approval or not.Before doing so the Bench should seek the opinion of a committee of three reputed doctors to be nominated by the Bench by consulting medical authorities that might deem fit.Preferably one of three doctors should be a neurologist, one should be a psychiatrist and the third a physician. For this purpose, a panel of doctors in every city should be prepared by the High Court in consultation with the State Government/Union Territory and their fees for this purpose might be fixed.

 139. The committee of doctors should examine the patient carefully and consult the record of the patient as well take the views of the hospital staff.

140.The High Court Notice should issue also notice to the State and close relatives to the patient and their opinion should be given due weightage.

The above procedure should be followed all over India until Parliament makes legislation on this subject.


However,any mention of euthanasia in the Shanbaug case irks the nurses at the KEM hospital who have been looking after her since the past 41 years.”Euthanasia is not for someone who responds to commands and breathes naturally”,questioned  fervently a staff nurse at the KEM hospital.

The medical expert who comes to examine her every month exclaimed,”Her vitals are normal. Her health had deteriorated in November and she was admitted to the MICU but she is now back to how she has been.She is not on life support system.”

It was 41 years back  that Shanbaug who then worked in KEM as a staff nurse was brutally assaulted by a ward boy So hangar Walmiki who tried to throttle her with a dog’s chain.”Her brain devoid of oxygen was shrivelled and she was reduced to a near vegetative state,not being able to walk or talk,” said the doctor.

Everyone has been praying for her banking for that 1% chance of miracle.The culprit who walked a free man after a mere imprisonment of 7 years leaving Aruna to suffer. She has convulsions and fits. Her spirits fight, subside and then rise again with her life hanging in uncertainty.

– Misbaah Mansuri

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Riya Lokhande

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