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SC reserves verdict on plea for Aruna Shanbaug’s mercy killing

Former nurse has been in vegetative state for 37 years after her violent rape by a hospital sweeper.

Written by Agencies | New Delhi |
March 2, 2011 4:02:14 pm

The Supreme Court today reserved its verdict on a plea for mercy killing of a Mumbai nurse who has been living a vegetative existence in a hospital for the last 37 years after she was violently attacked by a hospital sweeper who also sexually abused her.

A Bench of justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra reserved the verdict after hearing detailed arguments by various parties on the question of allowing euthanasia for nurse Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug,who slipped into coma after the brutal attack on her at Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial Hospital.

Several counsel who made submissions on the controversial issue of permitting mercy killing included Attorney General G E Vahanvati,amicus curiae T R Andhyarujina,Ballabh Sisodia for the hospital and Shekhar Naphade appearing for the petitioner and author Pinky Virani,who had sought permission for Aruna’s mercy killing.

During the arguments,Vahanvati took the stand that there is no provision either under the statute or the constitution to permit euthanasia.

Sisodia opposed the plea contending that the hospital staff,particularly the nurses and the doctors,have been taking “dedicated care” of Aruna for the last 37 years and they were opposed to the plea for her killing.

The plea for Aruna’s mercy killing had been made by Virani,who told the court in her petition that the nurse was attacked by a sweeper who wrapped a dog chain around her neck and yanked the victim with it on November 27,1973.

He tried to rape the victim but finding that she was menstruating,indulged in anal sex. To immobilise her during this act,he twisted the chain around her neck and fled the scene after committing the heinous offence.

Virani said the strangulation cut off the oxygen supply to the brain and the cortex was damaged.

She also had brain stem contusion injury associated with cervical cord injury.

According to the petitioner,Aruna,who is now about 60 years old,has become “featherweight” and her bones brittle. She is prone to bed sores.

Her wrists are twisted inwards,teeth decayed and she can only be given mashed food on which she survives,said Virani adding that Aruna is in a persistent vegetative state,her brain is virtually dead and she is oblivious to the outside world.

She can neither see nor hear anything nor can she express herself or communicate in any manner,whatsoever,she said in her plea for mercy killing.

The apex court had earlier appointed a 3-member medical team to assist it in determining the issue of mercy killing,besides examining the physical condition of the brain-dead nurse.

The Bench had appointed the team of Mumbai doctors J V Divatia,Roop Gurshani and Nilesh Shah,who had earlier submitted their detailed report to the Bench.

But flummoxed with the technicalities of the report,the Bench had sought personal presence of the doctors for a better understanding of their report.

“Euthanasia is one of the most perplexing issues which the courts and legislatures all over the world are facing today. This court,in this case,is facing the same issue and we feel like a ship in an unchartered sea,seeking some guidance by the light thrown by the legislations and judicial precedents of foreign countries,” the Bench had said in one of its earlier orders,while hearing Virani’s plea for Aruna’s mercy killing.

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