06/15/2006, 00.00
INDIA
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Pro-euthanasia bill being considered

by Nirmala Carvalho
For the first time, the Union of India is considering 'mercy killing'. Medicine, for the former secretary general of the Bishops' Conference of India, must preserve life, not take it.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – For the first time in its history, India is considering a law that would decriminalise euthanasia, but for the Indian Church "dealing with pain by physically eliminating those who suffer is an evasion of moral duty and a great wrong". In the meantime, the proposal remains controversial and most people are waiting to see what a panel of medical experts has to say.

The Law Commission of India has recommended that the law needs to protect terminally ill patients and if they refuse treatment "they should not be charged with attempted suicide." It also proposes that the patient or his family requests his doctor for mercy killing, but expresses concern about possible abuses for non humanitarian reasons by relatives.

"By condemning the practice of physician-assisted suicide, and reiterating why it must remain illegal, we affirm the unconditional value of human life," Mgr Percival Fernandez told AsiaNews.

For the former secretary general of the Bishops' Conference of India and Managing Trustee of the FIAMC Bio-Medical Ethics Centre, Mumbai "[s]ociety as a whole must reaffirm the commitment to preserve life whenever possible. Physicians must make every effort to sustain life. Any compromise in the commitment of medical professionals to protect and extend life would undermine the public's faith in the medical profession."

"Aggressive treatment," he said, "along with the administration of potentially fatal painkillers (in the interest of relieving a patient's sufferings), and euthanasia both have the same intention. They stem from a desire to master the end of life, and a refusal to accept something that is beyond us."

"We are looking into the recommendations. The proposals have been sent to Health Ministry for their opinion," said H R Bharadwaj, Law Minister.

In Hyderabad a 25-year-old man who was on life support wanted his doctor to pull the plug so that he could donate his organs. The doctor could not but his case brought the issue to the public fore.

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