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Aruna Shanbaug, in vegetative state for 42 years, dies



By NewsGram Staff Writer

The long ordeal of Aruna Shanbaug, the victim of 1973 Mumbai rape, has finally come to rest.

Shanbaug, who suffered a brutal sexual assault at KEM Hospital 42 years ago, has died on Monday due to chronic pneumonia. She was working as a staff nurse in the Hospital.

On November 27,1973, she was brutally raped by a sweeper named Sohanlal Bharta Valmiki of the hospital. He tried to rape her by wrapping a dog chain on her neck. This insane attack badly damaged her brain, and she remained in a vegetative state ever since the incident.

According to a doctor’s report, the brain was badly damaged as the chain had cut off the supply of oxygen. The cortex and some other part of the brain also faced serious damages.

As if the gruesome act of sexual assault was not enough, Shanbaug had to face her family’s apathy, which resulted in cessation of any kind of contact with her from her family members. The doctors and nurses of the hospital took care of Shanbaug, who stayed in a small room beside the female ward of the hospital.

In 2011, author Pinki Virani, who wrote a book on Shanbaug, filed a petition in Supreme Court seeking mercy killing for Shanbaug. However, the Supreme Court rejected the petition and the staff of the hospital also opposed this issue.

“An innocent girl has to give her life for men’s lust. How can a person be so cruel! And the incident is still happening every day at any corner of the world,” said doctor Manasi Guha.

“She becomes a resident of this hospital for 42 years. We all miss the lady. May her soul rest in peace,” said a doctor of the hospital.

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SC Allows ‘Living Will’ Of Terminally Ill Persons

Supreme Court of India
  • SC allows living will for the terminally ill patients
  • SC says the person has ‘right to die with dignity’
  • In a living will, a  person can choose not to prolong his or her life using artificial means

The Supreme Court on Friday said a person has the “right to die with dignity” and can make an advance “living will” authorising the withdrawal of life support system if in medical view he has reached an irreversible stage of terminal illness.

While allowing a person to make the advance directive or living will, a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, however, attached strict conditions for executing the “will” made by a person in his normal state of health and mind.

Supreme court give terminally ill patients the 'living will''
Supreme court give terminally ill patients the ‘living will”

In the living will, a person can state in advance that his or her life should not be prolonged with a ventilator or artificial support system. The bench, also including judges A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, laid down guidelines on who would execute the will and how the nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by the medical board.

Recognising the “right to die with dignity”, the court permitted a person to draft in advance a living will in case she/he slips into an incurable condition. “To deprive an individual of dignity at the end of life is to deprive him of meaningful existence,” said Justice Chandrachud while allowing the living will for passive euthanasia.

Also Read: Ethical Dispute Erupts Over Euthanasia Rules

The court said the life support can be removed only after the statutory medical board declares the patient to be incurable. The bench said its guidelines and directives should remain in force till a legislation was brought to deal with the issue.

“Life and death are inseparable. Bodies involve continuous change but mind remains constant… Death represents culmination of life… Freedom, liberty are core of meaningful life,” Justice Chandrachud said. The court pronounced four separate but concurring judgements.

The person will have right to not prolong his or her by using artificial means. Wikimedia Commons
The person will have right to not prolong his or her by using artificial means. Wikimedia Commons

The court’s verdict came on a plea filed in 2005 by an NGO Common Cause seeking the right to make a living will authorising the withdrawal of life support system in the event of the will-makers reaching an irreversible vegetative state.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, had said that since a patient under coma cannot express his/her wish, law should allow him/her to put it down in writing in advance that he/she should not be tortured. In the absence of a law authorising doctors to do so, they keep incurable patients on life support, he said. IANS