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A Bengaluru-based woman has filed a petition before the Delhi High Court appealing the court to stop her friend, a 48-year-old man based in Noida, from travelling to Switzerland allegedly to undergo euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Advocate Subhash Chandra, the petitioner's advocate, told The Quint that, the high court is likely to hear the case next week.
As per the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a serious, long-term illness that affects many body systems, where patients are often not able to do their usual activities.
As per the petition accessed by The Quint, the 42-year-old patient repeatedly spoke of the hardships he faced due to the chronic medical condition.
As per personal chat conversation records attached with the petition, the woman was constantly in touch with her friend about his health condition. A text message that he purportedly sent her read, “Looking at euthanasia options. Had enough.”
In one of the messages to the petitioner, the patient wrote via WhatsApp, "I need help to go to the bathroom, cleaning, brushing, feeding, pushing wheelchair, along with the torment of suffering 24 hours for years. I am dependent on three people for simple daily tasks. I am sometimes lying naked on cold floor, urinating there. I have lost my independence, my dignity, my life."
In a report first published by The Indian Express, it was revealed that the petitioner appealed to the court seeking restriction on his travel to Europe, as his action will cause “irreparable loss” and “hardship” to his parents, other family members, and friends.
Patient Was Undergoing Treatment in AIIMS
The petition further adds that the patient was undergoing Fecal Microbiota Transplantation treatment in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) for his condition, but faced "donor availability issues” during the pandemic, due to which he could not continue the same.
Symptoms of his condition surfaced in 2014 and his condition deteriorated over the past eight years, making him “completely bed bound and just able to walk a few steps inside home,” the petition added.
The friend in her writ petition to the high court claims that the 42-year-old patient is allegedly planning to undergo euthanasia through Zurich-based organisation Dignitas, which provides assistance to foreign nationals.
In his interaction with The Quint, Subhash Chandran, lawyer appearing for the petitioner said that the man, in June, travelled to Zurich via Belgium for the first round of psychological evaluation for euthanasia. "The patient obtained a Schengen visa, which allows unrestricted travel to 26 European countries, by providing "false information" that he wants to seek treatment at a clinic in Belgium," he added.
As per the information received by the petitioner, “his application was accepted by Dignitas, first evaluation was approved and (he is) now awaiting the final decision by the end of August 2022."
The medical records attached with the petition state the patient allegedly received a letter in May, by a doctor in AIIMS, stating that he was travelling to Belgium for medical consultation and further treatment as the condition is in early stages of research and not very well known in India.
"The court has to finally decide on his travel plans. As far as the facts are concerned, we are certain that he is not travelling with bonafide intentions, and is misleading Indian and foreign authorities. We pray to the court that he is not granted emigration clearance," added lawyer Subhash Chandran in his interaction with The Quint.
Is Euthanasia Allowed in India?
In India, passive euthanasia was made legal in 2011, for exceptional cases. These typically extend to people who are terminally ill and or in an irreversibly vegetative state. Active euthanasia and assisted suicide are both illegal.
Each case is rigorously evaluated as a stand-alone case when it comes to granting a person allowance to undergo euthanasia.
According to the 2011 ruling, doctors had to approach the courts and file petitions for withdrawing life support of certain patients.
In March 2018, the Supreme Court further bolstered the legal provision by declaring the right to die with dignity, a fundamental right, and providing more allowance to individuals to make this choice.
The Supreme Court passed a law allowing people to draw up a 'living will' during their lifetimes seeking euthanasia (passive) in case they go on to develop a terminal illness or end up in an irreversible vegetative state.
This living will may be submitted to the court and is activated if and when such a time comes.