CASE ANALYSIS ON - Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India.
This is widely known as " Passive Euthanasia case". This Landmark judgement is a brief insight on the concept of " Right to Die" & legalizing of Passive Euthanasia in the country.
2. Table of Contents
01 Case title
Name of Court&parties.
Judgement Date &Coram.
Brief Intro of the case.
03 Brief Facts.
Facts of” Passive
04 Issues Involved.
05 O6 Conclusion.
Finding of Courts.
Right to Die.
Critical Analysis of the
3. 1)J. Markandey Katju.
2)J.Gyan Sudha Misra.
Hon’ble Supreme Court
Name of Court
Shanbaug v UOI& Ors.
(2011) 4 SCC 454.
Petitioner: A.R Shanbaug.
Respondent: Union of
4. Relevant Acts & Articles.
1)Mental Capacity Act, 2005.
2)Termination of Life on
Request & Assisted Suicide Act,
3)Burial & Cremation Act
Oregon Death with Dignity Act,
4)Transplantation of Human
Organs Act, 1994(sec.2&3(6)).
1)Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab
2)P. Rathinam v Union of India.
3)Dwarka Nath v ITO AIR,1966
4)Nancy B. v. Hotel Dieu de
5)Maruti Sripati Dubal case
Constitution of India - Article 12,
Constitution of India - Article 21,
Constitution of India - Article 32,
Constitution of India - Article 226,
Constitution of India - Article 226(1).
The Constitution of India guarantees ‘Right to Life’ to
all its citizens. The ever-lasting debate on whether
‘Right to Die’ can also be read into this provision still
lingers in the air. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India,
in this case, was approached under Article 32 of the
Indian Constitution to allow for the termination of the
life of Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug, who was in a
permanent vegetative state.
Let us all see ,the say of the apex court , scope of life
under Article 21 & what was the guidelines for
euthanasia given in the given case.
Article 21, Scope of Life, Right to
Die, Brain Death, PVS, Euthanasia,
Withdrawal of life support
6. The case is writ petition under the Article 32 of the
constitution, filed on the behalf of the petitioner Aruna
Ramchandra Shanbaug by one of ‘her next’ friend Ms. Pinki
Virani of Mumbai.
The petitioner was a staff Nurse in the KEM Hospital, Parel,
Mumbai. On the eve of 27th November, 1973 she was attacked
by a sweeper in the hospital who wrapped a dog chain around
her neck and yanked her back with it. He tried to rape her &to
mobilize her during the act he twisted the chain around the
Next day she was found lying on the floor with blood all over in
an unconscious condition. It is alleged that due to strangulation
the supply of oxygen to the blood stopped and the brain got
It is alleged that she is in persistent vegetative state (PVS) and
virtually a dead person and has no state of awareness. It is
alleged that there is no slightest possibility of any improvement
in condition and her body lies on the bed in the KEM hospital,
Mumbai like a dead body and it has been in this position for
last 37 years.
7. Issues Involved.
Does the family or next person get to make
a request to withhold life sustaining
systems, in case a person himself has not
placed such a request previously?
Does withdrawal of life sustaining
systems and means for a person
who is in a permanent vegetative
state (PVS), should be permissible
or ‘not lawful?
Aruna Shanbaug has been
abandoned by her family and is being looked
after for the last 37 years by the staff of
KEM hospital. Who should take decision on
If a patient declares previously that
he/she does not want to have life
sustaining measures in case of
futile care or a PVS, should his/her
wishes be respected in such a
8. JUDGEMENT HELD
The Hon’ble Division Bench of the Supreme Court of
India, comprising Justice Markandey Katju and Justice
Gyan Sudha Mishra, delivered this historic judgment on
March 7, 2011.
She could breathe without a support machine, had
feelings and produced necessary stimulus. Though she is
in a PVS, her condition was been stable. So, terminating
her life was unjustified.
The Court opined that based on the doctors’ report and
the definition of brain death under the Transplantation
of Human Organs Act, 1994, Aruna was not brain dead.
9. Further, the right to take decision on her behalf vested
with the management and staff of KEM Hospital and not
The lifesaving technique was the mashed food, on which she
was surviving & removal of it in this case would have meant
not feeding her. The Indian law in no way advocates not
giving food to a person.
Removal of ventilators and discontinuation of food could not
be equated. Allowing of euthanasia to Aruna would mean
reversing the efforts taken by the nurses of KEM Hospital
over the years.
10. "Marte hain aarzoo mein marne ki, Maut
aati hai par nahin aati.”
—-- Mirza Ghalib
“Human rights rest on human dignity. The
dignity of a man is worth fighting for & worth
-- Robert Maynard.
11. Concept of Euthanasia & Medical Ethics .
In this case, the consent of Aruna could not be
obtained and thus, the question as to who should
decide on her behalf became more prominent.
This was decided by beneficence. Beneficence is
acting in the patient’s best interest. Public
interest and the interests of the state were
• Euthanasia • Medical Ethics
In the aforementioned issues, the court explained as
to what is euthanasia. Mercy killing is of 2 types:
active & passive. Active euthanasia entails the use of
lethal substances /forces to kill a person e.g. a
lethal injection given to a person with terminal cancer
who is in terrible agony. Passive euthanasia entails
withholding of medical treatment for continuance of
life, e.g. removing the heart lung machine, from a
patient in coma.
The Supreme Court dealt with the aspect of
informed consent and right to the bodily
integrity of the patient as followed by the US in
the Nancy Cruzan case. Informed Consent is the
kind of consent wherein the patient is fully
aware of all the future courses of his
treatment, his chances of recovery, & all the
side effects of all these alternative courses of
The Supreme Court allowed passive euthanasia in
certain conditions. the Court in order to prevent
misuse of this provision in the future, the power to
determine the termination of a person’s life would be
subjected to High Court’s approval following a due
procedure. This case clarified the issues revolving
around euthanasia and also laid down guidelines with
regard to passive euthanasia.
12. RIGHT TO DIE:
WITH DIGNITY ??
Right to life is a basic
natural right & as a
guaranteed under Part-
III (Article 21) of the
Article 21 of the Indian
Constitution states that –
‘no person shall be
deprived of his life or
personal liberty except
according to procedure
established by law’.
Now this right has been
interpreted by the Indian
judiciary in ways so as to
include within its purview
several new rights :right
to livelihood, right to
shelter, right to privacy,
right to food, right to
education, right to get
pollution free air which
are quite essential to
improve the condition of
the life of the people &
for the true enjoyment
of the right to life.
Can this right to life
be interpreted to
such an extent which
leads to its self
destruction or self
That is, can it
include within its
ambit the right not
to live or the right
to die? This is the
crucial point of
13. Scope of new right :-
becomes far more
death, then it is
very normal for
him to desire
death is known as
Euthanasia is also
Cases in which
the scope of
right to die with
3) Gian Kaur v
State of Punjab.
extinction of a
by the action
of oneself is
morally bad +
Exceptions : In
death is allowed
when it is with
the full and
real consent of
the person who
is going to die.
be defined as
It is categorized
Into 2 kinds:-
It can be caused
by action as
the inaction of a
New Beginning : The landmark case not only marked the beginning of
the discussions on the issue of Passive Euthanasia but also directed the
government to abolish obsolete and inconsistent laws like sec 309 of IPC
(which criminalizes & punishes the person attempting suicide).
Scope of Article 21: It clarifies the position of the right to die with
dignity and further enhances the ambit of Article 21 of our constitution .
It was a progressive judgment in Indian context.
Ethical Questions: Moreover, questions like right to dignified death &
euthanasia are difficult to be wholly addressed by the strict statutes of
law. It needs a larger social conscience to arrive at a solution, which will
reflect the ethical maturity and sensitivity of the society as a whole.
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