Human Rights

A dignified final departure is every individual's inalienable right

Bidding farewell to the world with one's head held high is every individual's fundamental as well as inalienable right and the SC has put its stamp on it by legalizing passive euthanasia. Centuries ago Roman emperor-philosopher Marcus Aurelius (truly, a bizarre combination!) wrote in Dignity in death: 'How I die is my decision/How I depart is my intention/My life is mine, so is my death/ How I depart is my tension' (loosely translated from Latin by Derek Alton Walcott).

The dignity in death is most vital to an individual's free will or his/her volition. 'How you choose your death decides how free you're', thundered Nietzsche. Blessed with Icchha Mrityu, the grand patriarch of Mahabharat, Bhishma told Arjun, 'This is the manner of death that I've chosen for myself because a sense of awareness in death is far better than being at the mercy of others' (Na kinchitam sarvey pranatohasmi devanam, yatkinchit mrityu parvedham karunarpite). 

All Greek gymnosophists and philosophers chose their own death and also the time of death. Socrates was asked to choose the way of his execution and was accorded the right to die at the time of his choice. He was given a bowl of hemlock to drink because he wanted to stay aware till the last breath. It's worthwhile to mention that hemlock causes slow but peaceful death with complete awareness. It was not just Socrates who desired how to die consciously but other philosophers like Frencasier, Diostephele and Gurnimoren also drank hemlock to celebrate death.

Mind you, it wasn't suicide or death wish. It was to celebrate life through death of one's choice. The masses don't understand this but evolved souls realised it millenniums ago. What's Santhara in Jainism? It's Icchha Mrityu (Death at will). One's not eulogising death here. 

This is symbolical. The quintessential manifestation of death at will can be seen and experienced through Santhara, which's often erroneously termed as 'Religious Harakiri.' 

The great Buddhist scholar Dharmanand Kosambi chose to die when he took Santhara. Buddha also died when he requested his disciple Anand not to do anything to save his life. 'Mritam krachhate, vyaktam nivrete' (I want to see the death come and take me away), he said this to Anand and closed his eyes. 

'Willing, not WILLFUL, death is the biggest existential issue of all times and ages,' opined French existentialist Albert Camus in his book, The Outsider. It's better to vanish than to vegitate. An unproductive existence has no meaning and purpose. One becomes a liability to others. If in such a state, one wants to die peacefully, let him/her die with a modicum of dignity. 

Yours truly has seen terminally ill. People beg to die in cancer hospitals across the world. Why haven't they been allowed to die, especially, in India? It appeared to me as more of a punishment than any kind of benevolent treatment. It's society and medical fraternity's unwitting sadistic gloating over their painful life that refuses to leave. However good and noble the intentions may be in trying to prolong a life that wriggles to leave and fade into oblivion, we aggravate the pain of the sufferer by not letting him/her die. We encroach upon his/her basic right to shuffle off the mortal coil. This is sheer torture. 

A time comes in a terminally ill person's life when he empathises with the poet Robert Browning, 'I give the fight up/Let there be an end/A privacy, an obscure nook for me/I want to be forgotten even by god.'

This is not wallowing in self-pity. This is the ardent and urgent desire to let one go when one's time is over on earth. Let him go with a faint smile on his lips and contentment on his face. He'll be thankful to the world around if his death wish is granted unconditionally and mercifully.

[The Milli Gazette does not subscribe to this view as euthanasia is un-Islamic. The seeking of medical treatment from illness is mandatory in Islam. But it is un-Islamic to keep anyone alive artificially with use of medical technology. Read more here.—Editor, Online Edition]