New Delhi: Aruna Shanbaug, who died at the KEM Hospital in Mumbai, had to suffer the agony and pain by remaining in coma and on ventilator support for 42 years as the Supreme Court in 2011 had rejected the plea for her mercy killing.
A Bench of Justices Markandey Katju and Ms. Gyan Sudha Misra, did not accept the plea of Pinky Viranai seeking permission to withdraw the life support extended to Aruna. The court had dismissed the petition on the ground that she did not have the locus standi and only the Hospital could seek such a request.
The court said, “There is no statutory provision in our country as to the legal procedure for withdrawing life support to a person in Persistent Vegetative State or who is otherwise incompetent to take a decision in this connection. A decision has to be taken to discontinue life support either by the parents or the spouse or other close relatives, or in the absence of any of them, such a decision can be taken even by a person or a body of persons acting as a next friend. It can also be taken by the doctors.”
The court had said, “if we leave it solely to the patient’s relatives or to the doctors or next friend, there is always a risk in our country that this may be misused by some unscrupulous persons who wish to inherit or otherwise grab the property of the patient. Considering the low ethical levels prevailing in our society today and the rampant commercialisation and corruption, we cannot rule out the possibility that unscrupulous persons with the help of some unscrupulous doctors may fabricate material to show that it is a terminal case with no chance of recovery.”
In the present case, the court said, “Aruna’s parents are dead and other close relatives are not interested in her ever since she had the unfortunate assault on her. It is the KEM Hospital staff, who have been amazingly caring for her day and night for so many long years, who really are her next friends, and not Ms. Pinky Virani who has only visited her on a few occasions and written a book on her. Hence it is for the KEM hospital staff to take that decision.”...