Of all topics or subjects I am passionate about, the two that occupy the maximum space in my head are – (1) Life, and (2) Death.
And they are connected in so many ways…
The purpose of this post is to write about confluence of news/events related to Death in this week or past few days.
Few weeks ago, the Supreme Court of India passed a historic verdict allowing Passive Euthanasia. The Supreme Court defined Passive Euthanasia as “a decision to withdraw life-saving treatment by a patient who is competent to take decision as well as with regard to a patient who is not competent to take decision can be termed as passive euthanasia, which is lawful and legally permissible in this country.”
The definition is very specific and narrow – it doesn’t cover voluntary suicide of all kinds. Though it was a significant decision after years of lobbying. It was the unfortunate Aruna Shanbaug’s case that changed euthanasia law in India.
Today I came across a news that a high profile Mumbai Police Officer Himanshu Roy committed suicide. At first glance I thought it was a suspicious plot – because Himashu Roy was ex-head of Anti Terror Squad in the state and had pursued many such cases. However, after reading the article I understood that he was suffering from a late stage cancer. He was a fitness freak and couldn’t handle the suffering anymore and hence decided to end his life. Did his case fit Passive Euthanasia? Not sure. However, he chose his own way.
This news struck me hard because of another news that happened yesterday. David Goodall (age 104) Australia’s oldest scientist, David Goodall, ended his own life at a clinic in Switzerland, surrounded by family and while listening to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.
Though very old, Goodall was fit and fine and was not suffering from any terminal disease or illness. On that ground Australian Government had denied him permission for euthanasia. But Goodall’s view was that why should he be forced to live? Goodall had seen his eyesight and mobility deteriorate considerably in recent years and said that his life stopped being enjoyable “five or 10 years ago”. He was fed up with life and hence he decided to go to Switzerland where medical assisted suicide is allowed.
Goodall ate fish and chips and cheesecake and listened to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in final hours yesterday. He was surrounded by his family members. He even spoke publicly at a press conference before embracing death:
In fact his last words were: This is taking an awfully long time!
What a courageous man!
Interestingly, just last week a Hindi movie released in India titled 102 Not Out which has a humorous take on old age and death. It is a story of a father (102 years old) and his son (75 years old). Father reads in the news that world’s oldest person (116 years or so) has died and gets excited that he can now have a shot at that record if he lives till 116. However he feels that his son, the 75-year old man who is very pessimistic and naysayer is a stumbling block in his ambition. So he decides to send his son to Old Age Home! To avoid that, the son agrees to change his behavior and world view. Interesting plot! (Based on a stage play in Gujarati).
This story is good for a movie, however the real world story is totally opposite – as confirmed by the two news quoted above. A lot of people want to live with dignity, and a lot of them also want to die with dignity.
There is a beautiful poem/song in Marathi which summarizes this feeling in perfect manner. It says:
While there is twilight (while I am healthy and agile), I should breathe my last…Great thought!