66-year-old Aruna Shanbaug, who remained in coma for 42 years after being sexually assaulted, died on Monday, rekindling the debate on legalizing euthanasia in the country.
66-year-old Aruna Shanbaug, who remained in coma for 42 years after being sexually assaulted, died on Monday, in a case that sparked the debate on legalizing euthanasia in the country.
In 1973, while being a 26-year-old nurse at the King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital in Mumbai, she was attacked during her night-shift by a ward attendant. That night Sohanlal Bhartha Walmiki inhumanly sodomized and strangled her with a dog chain, what caused the lack of oxygen supply to her brain and left her in a coma for almost half a century.
The last week of her ‘life’ she was suffering from pneumonia what later lead to a cardiac arrest. During that time she was put on a ventilator. Besides, Mrs Shanbaug was being fed with a tube and had been in a vegetative state for the past 42 years, according to Medical Superintendent Pravin Bangar at KEM hospital.
The accident caught the eye of international public in 2009, when activist and author Pinki Virani, who had written a book about Shanbaug, appealed to India’s top court for passive euthanasia. Virani stated that Shanbaug’s vegetative existence was deprived of human dignity and couldn’t be called ‘life’ at all.
Despite that fact, KEM hospital’s present and former staff opposed the motion. Later in 2011 the Supreme Court supported the KEM staff, saying that their care for Shanbaug by feeding, washing her through all these years was marvelous, and rejected Virani’s plea.
However, as a result of Shanbaug’s case, the supreme court legalized passive euthanasia in the same year, subject to restrictions, describing the method as “withholding or withdrawing medical treatment including discontinuance of life supporting systems”.
Later Virani said that because of Shanbaug, the euthanasia was passed, but she never benefited from it. Although the author and journalist stated:
She is in peace, at last, and so am I
A seven-year jail term for assault and robbery was served by Walmiki, but he was never convicted of sexual assault because sodomy wasn’t considered as rape at that time.