Will the Madras HC allow Passive Euthanasia for a nine-year-old child?

Will the Madras HC allow Passive Euthanasia for a nine-year-old child?

Meera Emmanuel

The Madras High Court has been moved to permit what could become the first recorded instance of passive euthanasia for a minor child.

The plea was admitted by the High Court earlier this week. Today, the Bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and S Baskaran also directed a three-member panel comprising of Dr Reginald (Neurosurgeon), Dr P Ramachandran (retired Paediatrician) and Uma Maheshwari (CMO, Central Government Health Scheme, Chennai) to nominate three experts to examine the child within two weeks.

It was only last March that the Supreme Court ruled that the Right to Life under Article 21 includes the right to live with dignity and the same includes the smoothening of the process of dying in case of a terminally ill patient or a person in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery.

Relying on this judgment, Cuddalore-based R Thirumeni has filed an earnest plea before the High Court, praying that passive euthanasia be allowed for his nine-year-old son, T Paavendhan, who has been in in a persistent vegetative state since birth. Advocate N Kavitha Rameshwar appeared on behalf of the petitioner.

Paavendhan was diagnosed with Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) soon after his birth in November 2008. HIE is a form of brain damage which results when an infant’s brain does not receive sufficient oxygen and blood.

On the suffering undergone by his son on account of HIE, Thirumeni has submitted,

“… my son is in a state of wakefulness without any awareness about himself or about anything in the environment. All his movements and reactions are based on reflex and there is no response to or awareness of or reaction to anything or any voluntary movements.

My son suffers from a severe form of total brain damage and he cannot even recognize anything or anyone in his environment. There is total motor disability and he cannot even sit but he is in a supine stretched out position at all times.

He has sleep-wake cycles and has to be fed mashed semisolid food forcibly through his mouth. All his bowel and bladder movements are involuntarily like any other function of the body.

Apart from that he also suffers uncontrolled epileptic attacks ranging between 10 to 20 times per day. The number of epileptic attacks he suffers each day is controlled by the medicines administered to him. However, before the Anti-epileptic drugs were administered to him, the number of epileptic attacks which he suffered on one single day had gone upto 150.”

After consulting various doctors, Thirumeni was informed that the condition is irreversible. Therefore, he has approached the Madras High Court to euathanise his son as part of his duty to smoothen the process of his son’s death.

The case will be taken up next on September 10.

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