Birth is an occasion for joy. Contrarily, death is attended with grief. But birth and death are like two sides of a coin. They are inseparable. Death, like a shadow stalks behind a person from the moment he is born. In other words death is inevitable. Mortality is the most certain certainty on earth. Though we know we shall die, we are blessed to be ignorant of when or how we shall die. Death comes at any age and any place. The causes are innumerous. Disease, accident, natural calamity, starvation, suicide, murder or sheer old age can bring about death.
Desires may vary from person to person but there is one desire which is common to all. Everybody wants to die without pain or suffering. But how many people have their desire fulfilled? Everyday, every minute, every second there are thousands dying in agonized pain suffered due to one of the causes listed above. Very rarely and very few blessed mortals are clasped by death in a peaceful embrace.
When a person is terminally ill, has no chance of getting well and is suffering from severe pain his imminent death can be speeded up by voluntary, soothing aids. Such a practice is called euthanasia. Generally this concept is shocking to a majority of people because it is a matter of human ethics, of the sense of right and wrong. They believe the Almighty alone shall decide how long a mortal can live. The end should come, they feel, naturally - and not forced.
The first argument against euthanasia is it is equivalent to plain murder. Hence a crime and a sin. The second argument is miracles, though rare, are nevertheless possible. The excruciating, indefinite wait for miracle while the patient lies without the hope of recovery crosses rational limits of human endurance. Too heavy an emotional and monetary burden to carry. In such situations euthanasia is a very sensible solution. But in the present atmosphere the medical practitioner who has taken the solemn, Hypocritical oath to save the life under his treatment to the best of his ability cannot be seen in the light of an executioner, so to say.
It is strange how in human society killing is not always considered sinful. Cruel, ruthless, brutal killings have been taking place everywhere down the ages. Wars in the name of political ambitions and crusades for fanatical religious faiths are all part of man's history to this day. Soldiers fight for the
country with patriotism serving in the army, navy and air force.
Killing the enemy is their bounden duty. Policemen and commandos are deployed to quell riots and to maintain law and order. When mobs turn rebellious 'Shoot-at-sight' orders are issued. The killings by the military force and the police have legal sanction. They are morally right. There is no place for remorse. In 'Mahabharatha', Lord Krishna convinced Arjuna with the gospel of Gita about 'Karma' and 'Dharma'. Killing of the kith and kin which Arjuna abhorred was rationalized beautifully.
In ancient civilizations also killing has been sanctioned by law and custom. In Sparta, it is said, the warrior race did not think it worthwhile bringing up children who lacked physical stamina. It was their custom to roll tender babies down hilltops. Only the survivors were picked up and reared.
Neither was suicide ignominious and condemnable as a coward's escapist decision. With Romans it was considered valor to kill oneself than be captivated by the enemy. Mark Antony is a famous example. The Rajput ladies in India who killed themselves before the captors entered their premises were ennobled. The practice of 'Sati' has flourished for long deifying the hapless widows who were virtually pushed into the funeral pyre of their husbands.
Social evils and terrorism have been carrying on killing in many forms and for no noble purpose. Compared to the categories of killing cited above, euthanasia is a completely different variety. Its aim is humane. Some years ago the lady of my neighboring house who was in her thirties fell ill with cancer. I vividly remember her last days and her pathetic wails are still ringing in my ears. In spite of all treatment her condition deteriorated fast and towards the end she groaned in pain begging her husband to give her some poison to end her insufferable ordeal. But he refused to comply with her desperate wish. He could not think of it. He cannot bring himself up to killing with his own hands his wife whom he adored. Perhaps he feared his conscience would torment him for the rest of his life. It never occurred to him that he will be actually rendering her real service by fulfilling her wish. Such is the stance taken by an individual in the present social background built on ethics of old times and fear of interfering with divine will.
Do we not put suffering animals to sleep? Is that not a gesture of grand kindness? Even Mahatma Gandhi who preached and lived for 'Ahimsa' requested the calf suffering in heartrending pain be put to sleep. If animals meet with such gracious mercy do we human beings not deserve it much more strongly and urgently? What is the use of prolonging the life of a comatose person lying unconscious in a vegetable state for years on end? The emotional trauma of the relatives and the heavy medical expenses can very well be saved in cent percent hopeless cases. When it is obvious that the utmost modern medical facilities cannot alleviate the pain and suffering of a terminally ill person whose remaining life shall tick on only for a few more days, hours or minutes, is it not merciful to take resort to euthanasia? Valuable medicine, time, money, service of the medical personnel can all be spared as also the unspeakable, indefinite anguish of near and dear ones. It is unnecessary to prolong the mental agony of all concerned.
In this modern age when thinking patterns and concepts have crystallized to a finer and saner level, let us learn to come to terms with death - willed death. Let us give death the dignity it deserves. It is easy once the decision is taken with conviction and confidence. It is better that way. It is a service of a special kind, of supreme discretion. Let us strive to get it sanctioned legally and ethically. Let sentimental tears give way to sensible adieu.