What is Euthanasia? – New Zealanders voted in favour of legalising euthanasia.

New Zealanders have voted in favor of illegalizing the euthanasia for people with a terminal illness. The decision was taken in the aftermath of campaigners who were saying that people who are suffering extreme pain should be given a choice of how and when they want to bring their life to an end.


The decision of legalizing the euthanasia appeared as a referendum question alongside a second referendum question of legalizing cannabis on October 17, 2020 general election ballot paper. The referendum question of legalizing cannabis did not succeed.

What is Euthanasia?

Euthanasia is the practice of ending a life to relieve pain and suffering intentionally. Different countries defines euthanasia differently. In Britain, euthanasia is defined as an intervention undertaken with the intention of ending  life, to relieve intractable suffering”. While in Netherlands and Belgium, euthanasia is described as “termination of life by a doctor at the request of a patient”. In Dutch law ‘euthanasia’ term is not included but there is a concept called “assisted suicide and termination of life on request”.

Categories of Euthanasia

Euthanasia is categorized into voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary.

  • Voluntary euthanasia– It is given on patient’s call and is legal in some countries.
  • Non-voluntary euthanasia– Under this, patient’s consent is not taken and is illegal in all countries.
  • Involuntary euthanasia – This category of euthanasia is given without consent or against the patient’s will. It is also illegal in all countries. This category of euthanasia is usually considered murder.
  • Passive euthanasia – It is also known as “pulling the plug” euthanasia. Passive euthanasia means withholding treatments which are necessary for the continuance of life. This type is legal under specific circumstances in many countries.
  • Active euthanasia– This type of euthanasia includes the use of lethal substances or forces like injecting a lethal injection. This is legal only after the approval from the counselors and doctors. But in countries like Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan active euthanasia is non-existent.

Euthanasia in India

Passive euthanasia is legal in India under strict guidelines since March 2018.  In India, Patients’ consent is required through a living will. The patient must be either terminally ill or in a vegetative state. The supreme court of India legalized the passive euthanasia on 9 March 2018 as a part of the verdict in light of Aruna Shanbaug who had been in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS) until her death in 2015.

Supreme Court Judgement

The judgement was passed on the plea filed by Pinki Virani in the Supreme Court in December 2009.  The Supreme Court passed two irreversible conditions to permit Passive Euthanasia Law :

  1. In case of brain-dead patient, for whom the ventilator can be switched off.
  2. Those in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS) for whom the feed can be tapered out.