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Hemant against mercy killing

Ranchi, July 17: A day after the Supreme Court gave notices to all states and Union Territories seeking their views on legalising passive euthanasia within eight weeks, Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren today expressed strong disapproval, stating any such law would adversely affect the “very ethos of humanity”.

The apex court was hearing a plea of NGO Common Cause to legalise mercy killing of terminally ill patients and allow people to write their “living will”, meaning the right to refuse treatment and die if they end up in a permanent vegetative state.

Pressed for his views on mercy killing, Hemant told The Telegraph: “Personally, I am completely against legalising any form of killing, directly or by any other means under any circumstances.”

The chief minister added that his government would take a decision on the subject “soon” to clarify Jharkhand’s stand before the apex court.

“Give us some time to ponder on this issue from all aspects. I will sit with my legal experts, senior officials and other experts. But I don’t agree that the right to draft a living will can be made a law. The best way out is to see mercy killing case by case,” he said.

“As far as euthanasia is concerned, I see more of disadvantages than advantages. It can have very adverse affects on the very ethos of life and humanity,” Hemant said.

Yesterday’s developments at the Supreme Court have sparked a raging debate on the right to die of patients in a “permanent vegetative state without the possibility of recovery” as the five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice R.M. Lodha threw the ball in the states’ court.

Although the Centre has not lent its support, the apex court, while agreeing to examine the issue, ordered the nationwide debate saying it not only pertained to the Constitution but involved morality, religion and medical science.

Experts against euthanasia say a law would be grossly misused. But right-to-die lobby groups argue that the law would ease suffering of patients and their families.

Globally, euthanasia evokes extreme reactions. Voluntary euthanasia is legal in Belgium and The Netherlands. In the US, active euthanasia is illegal, but physician assisted dying is legal in Oregon, Washington and Montana. The Swiss see euthanasia as illegal but have legalised “assisted suicide”. It is banned in the UK, Spain, France and Italy.