SC seek AG's response on plea for Euthanasia killing

SC seek AG's response on plea for Euthanasia killing

A bench of justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra also appointed a three-member doctors' team to examine the victim Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug and submit a detailed joint report to it by the next date of hearing.

"Euthanasia is one of the most perplexing issues which the courts and legislatures all over the world are facing today. This court, in this case, is facing the same issue and we feel like a ship in an unchartered sea, seeking some guidance by the light thrown by the legislations and judicial precedents of foreign countries," the bench said in an order.

The bench made the remarks on a petition filed by Pinki Virani, a writer, and her friend who brought to the court's attention the pitiable state of the victim languishing in Mumbai's King Edward Memorial (KEM)Hospital and pleaded that Aruna be allowed to die peacefully by withdrawing the food being supplied to her forcibly.

The three-member doctors' team would comprise J V Divatia, Head, Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain at Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, Roop Gursahani, Consultant Neurologist at P.D. Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai, and Nilesh Shah, Head, Department of Psychiatry at Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Corporation Medical College and General Hospital.

The bench also appointed senior advocate T R Andhyarujina as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to assist on the issue.

"The question of locus standi of the next friend of the petitioner to move this petition shall also be considered on the date fixed," the bench said in the order.It was stated Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug, a staff nurse at the KEM Hospital in Mumbai, was attacked by a sweeper who wrapped a dog chain around her neck and yanked the victim with it on November 27, 1973.

He tried to rape the victim but finding that she was menstruating, indulged in anal sex. To immobilize her during this act, he twisted the chain around her neck and fled the scene after the committing the heinous offence.

It was alleged that due to strangulation by the chain the supply of oxygen to the brain stopped and the cortex damaged. She also had brain stem contusion injury associated with cervical cord injury.
According to the petitioner, for the past 36 years after the incident Aruna, who is now about 60 years old, has become "featherweight," and her bones are brittle. She is prone to bed sores.
Her wrists are twisted inwards, teeth decayed and she can only be given mashed food on which she survives.

The petitioner submnitted  Aruna is in a persistent vegetative state, her brain is virtually dead and oblivious to the outside world. She can neither see nor hear anything nor can she express herself or communicate in any manner whatsoever.

Mashed food is put in her mouth, she is not able to chew or taste any food. She is not even aware that food has been put in her mouth. She is not able to swallow any liquid food, which shows that the food goes down on its own and not because of any effort on her part. The process of digestion goes on in this way as the mashed food passes through her system, the petitioner submitted.
"Judged by any parameter, Aruna cannot be said to be a living person and it is only on account of mashed food which is put into her mouth there is a façade of life which is totally devoid of any human element," the petition has said .Hence, Pinki urged the apex court to direct the hospital authorities to stop feeding Aruna and let her die.

The apex court had ssued a notice to the Centre and others on December 16, 2009, but only  Mumbai Municipal Corporation and the Dean, KEM Hospital, have filed the responses.
The affidavit of Amar Ramaji Pazare, Professor and Head in the Hospital, said Aruna accepts the food in normal course and responds by facial expressions.

She responds to commands intermittently by making sounds. She makes sounds when she has to pass stool and urine which the nursing staff identifies and attends to by leading her to the toilet.
The bench requested the Bombay High Court and the state government to render all possible assistance to the team.

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