Thursday, December 14, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Legalising euthanasia

Apropos of the editorial “Legalising euthanasia” (Dec 4), I visualise that implicit in the right to live is — or ought to be — the right to die. Yet authority everywhere would rather have people lead miserable lives (lives infinitely worse than death could be) than die. Attempted suicide is a culpable offence because, it is argued, invitation to death even when life is no longer worth living militates against the norms of civilisation. The same civilisation, however, does not prevent wars and police firings which spell the death even of persons of normal health. In other words, the individual does not have the right to end his life. That is the prerogative of the government.

It is when viewed against the background of the palpable absurdity of such conventional wisdom that Dr Christian Bernard’s call for mercy killing makes sound sense. In the book entitled “A Good Life — A Good Death: Doctor’s case for Euthanasia and Suicide”, the celebrated surgeon argues that “doctors are fully competent to prescribe suicide” and that society and the medical profession ought to reconsider the conventional ethics and law which ordain that even the desperately ill will be kept alive at all costs and as long as possible. Dr Bernard wonders why those who have no qualms about killing an animal in pain stop short of extending the relief of death to fellow beings.

Thus euthanasia or mercy killing and doctor-assisted suicide is under hot debate the world over. Law moves slowly as it has to pass religious humps to match the race of technologies and opinions. The society remains torn between law and conscience. If all such issues are seen through the lens of individual’s right then they clash with society’s interest.


Sometimes prolonging life becomes difficult in a body inflicted with an irreversible infirmity. Terminal illness like cancer or AIDS and unbearable pain fall under such eventualities.

The major conflict is on doctor-assisted suicide by the depressed but otherwise healthy person. It is here that ethical distinction becomes difficult between what is permissible and what is not. Consequently, Dr Bernard’s seems to be a counsel which has little chance of being heeded by liberal societies which show extraordinary attachment to a life scarcely worth living.


ANOTHER DEBATE: The approval of euthanasia by the Dutch Parliament has initiated yet another debate on the subject. Many moral, ethical and religious questions come in the way of giving sanction to it. The argument given is that it is against the natural laws. But this is not the first unnatural thing which may be given sanction by law or by society. Law or society has given sanctions to many unnatural acts like:

*Medical termination of pregnancy.
*Pre-natal sex determination and selective female abortions.
*Surrogate mother.
*In-Vitro fertilisation.
*Change in sex.

Dr K. L. Garg

Amla arrests aging

It was quite interesting to note in "Trends and Pointers" (Dec 7) that recent experiments have shown that Amla is effective against stress related pathological disorders, including aging.. Amla is used in various Ayurvedic preparations. Amla is the base for most popular Ayurvedic tonic "Chyavanprash".

The oldest and the most authentic text on Ayurveda "Charak Smahita" notes various uses of Amla for rejuvenation and longevity. It states that Amla is very good for stabilizing age (Aamalakam vayah sthapananam shreshtham - sutrasthana, chapter-25, para-39).

For use as tonic, the confection of amla must be prepared with sugar and ghee, and honey should be added when confection gets cool. "Amla ka murrabba" is no good, as the juice is thrown away while preparing it. Moreover it is not mentioned anywhere in Ayurvedic literature.


Long arm of the law

This refers to the news item “Show cause notice to Haryana — “Compensation to Ruchika’s brother”.

It is gratifying to note that Punjab and Haryana High Court has taken suo motu cognizance of the judgement in the Ashu Girhotra case against whom a number of criminal cases were instituted at the behest of Mr SPS Rathore to pressurise him to persuade Ruchika to withdraw the molestation case against him.

Rathore, by instituting false cases against Ashu, intended to go scot free in the molestation case. But he could not escape the long arm of the law. One must appreciate the initiative taken by Madhu and her husband to pursue the molestation case against Rathore.

Ashu Girhotra deserves sympathy and compensation for the mental torture undergone by him. The compensation amount when ordered may be realised from officers concerned to act as deterrent for those who commit excesses on innocent persons.

H. L. Kapoor
New Delhi

Man in White House

In his detailed article “Man in White House; myths and realities” (Dec 8) Mr M.S.N. Menon has ignored the millions of dollars spent by Americans on the conduct of elections and training of the most powerful man on earth, the American President, after every four years.

Each presidential candidate has to declare with the help of his party the amount he has collected for the elections and this amount increases each term by millions.


Speedy action!

Ms Tavleen Singh in her informative column (Dec 2) rightly mentions that even the smallest thing in India took 10 times as long to do as it would in any other country in the world — all due to our bureaucrats.

Even well-intentioned projects, whether in the social sector or in the key defence sector, are sure to fall victim to bureaucratic delays.

A tell-tale example is the Defence Minister’s statement in the Rajya Sabha the other day that the issue of acquiring Advanced Jet Trainers (AJTs) for the IAF had been under discussion since 1983 and that it was speeded up in 1995.

After remaining in slow-motion for 12 long years, the government went into speed-mode and took “only” 5 more years to arrive at a decision. What a speedy action indeed!

Wg Cdr C. L. Sehgal (retd)



Animals’ agony

The extensive use of Oxytetracyclin injections through intra-muscular (I/M) route for the treatment of various infectious diseases in animals will sound unbelievable.

The prick of this injection causes twisting pain and irritation. The resultant irritation and persistence of drug at the site of injection is so agonising that not more than ten millilitre (ml) of the injection is advised at one site. A normal dose of 30 ml is to be given at three different sites.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 was enacted for preventing infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals.

The vets should restrict the use of this drug through painful route and prefer intravenous route which is painless. The manufacturers of these drugs, on their part, should also come up with improved formulation which should include local anaesthetics to minimize pain and irritation.


White elephant

Kudos for the pithy editorial “No work, all pay” (Nov 29), making an impassioned plea for downsizing the jumbo-size Union Ministry in the larger national interest.

The editorial observation that “white elephants are hard to feed unless you happen to have lots of money to burn” is uncontrovertible. However, to my mind, the wasteful exercise pinches only when one has to spend money out of one’s own pocket. Making merry at state expense seldom pricks the conscience of the politicians ruling the roost in the country at the moment.

Tara Chand
Ambota (Una)

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