What are your thoughts on mercy killing? What goes on in the mind and soul of a person in a vegetative state for decades…….Do they have the right to die with dignity? Who decides?

She looks up from the pictures of a life long lost. Her pictures have been arranged in an untidy heart shape,showing her short life from a blubbering baby to a babbling teenager to a blithering sick old person. The gaudy glitter, the untidy scribblings of her friends and family,the tacky gallantry of the “Get well soon’s” seem strangely out of focus as she looks up to take in the stark almost disciplining chronic patient ward. Her characteristic skewed smile from her previous life is too much of a reminder. She breaks down again. Too raw the wounds are.

Guzaarish Euthanasia India Death with Dignity    Beyond the Euthanasia Debates

Ridiculous.

There’s a soft knock on the door.

“Come in”, she says almost fiercely. The loudness of her voice rises like a Phoenix in the din of the robotic unemotional hospital tones around her.

It’s the nurse,she brings in her daily cup.

Always the same routine,

9:30 AM (Never to be disturbed before her good night’s sleep.Unnatural,drugged,induced,fake sleep.)

Sickly sweet (to balance the bitterness of her life)

Tea(Hell,she wants coffee!)

On a pink doily (Fuck the care of her caretakers).

“Good morning, Are you feeling better today?”, the nurse asks in a hushed,sickly-sweet-like-the-tea voice.

“I’ll never be better”, she thinks, but replies “Feeling better,thanks!”.

Always the same question. Always the same answer. Always the same tea.

Ridiculous,Ironical.

Oh,but wait,there’s one question which is never answered.

“Have they decided yet?” she asks the nurse. Fearful. Hopeful.

The nurse squirms,pretends not to hear. The tea pot tinkles. The door shuts.

Ridiculous. Ironical. Routine.

And the pain starts again.

She shouts. Her voice rises through the din again.

Darkness.

Her eyes open again. It’s 12:00 in the noon. Amazing the way time passes in the haze of the strongest opiods. The dregs of tea she knocked over in pain have started to stink. An overwhelming nausea is starting to assault her senses. “Is it the smell or the drugs or Am I dying finally?” she thinks. Better not get her hopes up, Just yet.

Another soft knock on the door. It’s the mother. The family has been on an extended ward duty for the past year. I’ll do Monday, You do Tuesday. Wait, switch days with me.

Ridiculous. Ironical. Routine. Comical.

Ever since she fell sick,people refuse to look at her. Is it her emaciated once beautiful,now ugly body or her eyes, which still shine with pain and fanatical determination?

A fervor to decide her death?

She hands her mother the cup wordlessly. As her mother takes the cup, their fingers touch. The mother shivers with the clamminess of sick skin . She shivers in the warmth of healthy skin . They both recoil.

The mother is leaving now, the sight of her is tiring .

But wait, she must ask “Have they decided yet?”

The mother squirms, pretends not to hear . The tea cup tinkles. The door shuts.

Ridiculous. Ironical. Routine. Comical. Always.

The pain starts again.

Darkness.

A new knock on the door . Authoritative . Harsh. Alien.

It’s a new guy . Looks normal . But the telltale rosary in his hands speaks a different story. She braces herself up.

The sight of her extinguishes some authority. But he recovers quickly and starts “ Hello beta”. He is talking to the monitors attached to her body. He looks fascinated.

“Hi uncle.”

“I wished to speak to you . About life and death.”

“Ok.”

“I heard you want to commit suicide.”

“Yes.”

“It’s wrong.”

“I know.”

“God forbids death.”

“I’m dying.”

“God has written a time for everybody,your time isn’t here”

“Did he tell you that?”

“The soul can never escape this world if you commit suicide.”

“The pain can never escape if I don’t.”

“You won’t reach heaven.”

“This is hell.”

“You’re impertinent.”

“Thanks.”

He gives a scathing look to the impertinent monitor and bustles out. She can still hear him talking to her expectant relatives outside. Apparently the whole family has joint duty today. Still,they’re too afraid to see her.

It’s been the same since one year. The cycles of pain,drugs and the convincing. The convincing to keep the cycle going. On and on.

She breaks down again.

The pain returns with vengeance.

Darkness.

She wakes up to the sound of muffled crying. It’s the mother. Apparently she’s doing overtime today.

“I heard you insulted the priest! ”,she admonishes her .Gently. She’s sick so .

“I did.”

“You can’t decide to die.”

“I want to die when I feel like . I couldn’t live my life my way so at-least I get to decide my death.”

“How dare you say that to your mother? How can we see our child die?”,she admonishes her again. Gently of course.

“But you can see your child like a rotting vegetable? Slowly wilting?”

She tries to shout some more .

But the pain returns with a vendetta.

But no darkness.

The doctor on duty rushes in . He’s dressed up in a crisp white coat . His spectacles remind her of Harry Potter . He blinks at her .

“Ahem, I will be giving you your painkiller now, Miss um..”

He checks the board for her name . Apparently dying people choose to remain anonymous.

Still no darkness.

He grabs onto her hand to inject the strong sleep inducer. But she stops him .

“Have they decided yet?”

“Ahem Miss . According to the ethical considerations, the best interest policy.. The hospital denies your request. You see according to the latest medical council meeting . Miss um..”

Darkness finally .

Ridiculous. Ironical. Routine. Comical. Always. Relief.

Life Support Death with Dignity    Beyond the Euthanasia Debates

Light again. The periods of the induced calm are the best parts of her day these days. Her death would be an extended calm. The pain would go .Maybe she would feel young again .Or maybe she won’t feel anything . It would be easy . Just a simple mathematical calculation . 3*the sleeping drug . And that would be the end . An end to the pain.

But she guessed her pain was less than the pain that her loved ones would feel . She tries to shield them . But this was her last chance, the last chance to be selfish.

The pain returns again . But this time her body is showing a little more improv . Her hands and feet start seizing wildly. She pees on herself . Before she can feel embarrassed,she collapses again.

The mother looks up from her sewing patterns. She’s sewing a picture of the great Vishnu,the preserver. The one who preserves her daughter. Last week was rough . The daughter’s brain finally gave up on one side . Apparently the cancer, too tired of the boring lung decided to create a new outpost in the brain.

The doctors say it’s a miracle, she’s still alive. A few centimeters of further expansion and the breathing center in the brain would have collapsed too.

“Thank god my daughter is alive.” the mother thinks. Thank you god.

Ridiculous. Ironical. Routine. Comical. Always. Relief. For her.

The doctor enters. Crisp white coat. Harry Potter glasses. He blinks.

“ So congratulations . We were able to save your daughter . Miss um..”

He looks into the board to check her name. But a small, scrawny writing asks.

“Have they decided yet?”

The doctor squirms,pretends not to read. The board tinkles. The tea cup tips over. The door shuts.

aruna shanbaug Death with Dignity    Beyond the Euthanasia Debates

On 7 March 2011 the Supreme Court of India legalized passive euthanasia by means of the withdrawal of life support to patients in a permanent vegetative state. The decision was made as part of the verdict in a case involving Aruna Shanbaug, who has been in a vegetative state for 37 years at King Edward Memorial Hospital. The high court rejected active euthanasia by means of lethal injection. In the absence of a law regulating euthanasia in India, the court stated that its decision becomes the law of the land until the Indian parliament enacts a suitable law.Active euthanasia, including the administration of lethal compounds for the purpose of ending life, is still illegal in India, and in most countries.

By: Bhavna Sharma

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