Ojaswi K.C., Nepal, APMA 2019
My aunt’s mother- in- law spent half her life in bed with full-body paralysis. During her last months, she was in and out of a coma. In the end, she could barely recognize herself. Dying does that to you. Dying is the bridge between death and life. Crossing the bridge can sometimes be hard. And she is just one of the million patients in Nepal who have an incurable disease.
But what if you don’t have an option to ask for help to end the suffering and misery? It should be a fundamental human right to have an option to choose how one can terminate their life.
In 2015, Advocate Uttam Prasad Rimal filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Nepal for patients who have an incurable disease to die a merciful death. After two years, the court gave a verdict to summon the experts. Now, it has already been three years since the court gave its ruling, but there still is no development on legalizing euthanasia in Nepal.
One of the critical bumps has been that the issue itself holds a contentious ground in public and private spheres depending on the cultural, political, and religious background of the individual.
Nepal is home to people from different religions, cultural, and political backgrounds. Ways of life are reflected in legislation, judiciary, and in governance. The majority of people in Nepal who practice Hinduism see death as a transition to the next life or the end of one life cycle and attain ‘mokshya.’ This concept is also similar to Buddhism ‘nirvana’. It is believed that life ends when it ceases to end. Any intervention is sinful. Human beings have to live their life in full term. Christian followers also share this belief in Nepal. In a religious context, euthanasia has been considered a sin and an unsacred intervention.
This intervention has also brought bipolar views in the medical community and the public health sector of Nepal. One group says that more research should be done in the areas of palliative care and another group says medical doctors have to help their patients to ease their ailments. The latter group supports that Nepal should legalize euthanasia. However, the first group disagrees on the basis that medical professionals should do everything in their knowledge to help and save their patients.
So, one of the critical reasons for hindrance in the legalization of euthanasia has also been the lack of understanding of the term ‘euthanasia’. Euthanasia is compared to suicide. Suicide is condemned by religious scripture and is also frowned by society at large.
The preamble of the Constitution adheres to commit to the ethos of human rights: protect, promote, and fulfill. The constitution also acknowledges the right to live with dignity. It also recognizes the right to life as a fundamental right, which is also consistent with Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states “everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.”
But dignity goes far beyond life and continues even after death. It transcends into what we want in our memorial service, what we want to do with our bodies after death. The legal personality of life reflects even after death. Having a choice on how one wants to terminate their life will allow the person to live life to their accordance. Hence, the right to live and right to die to go hand in hand.
This brings us to a fundamental question, ‘What is life?’ The quintessential meaning of life has always meant different things to different people. But if we could combine all the answers, then they would reflect on how life is supposed to be lived to the fullest. Euthanasia brings an opposite spectrum of living, i.e., death. Euthanasia allows one to choose their right to plan for their death. This allows for patients who have an incurable disease to end their suffering in their terms.
Hence, the legislative and policymakers should review and legalize the right to die in Nepal. This, so patients can choose how they want to proceed with their incurable disease. It is a fundamental liberty to choose one’s life terms and conditions. These terms and conditions are crucial in the protection, promotion, and fulfillment to enjoy basic human rights, including the right to life.
Photo from Yahoo News.
*The contents of this opinion piece are solely those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the view of the either Global Campus of Human Rights Asia Pacific, the universities under it, or the APMA program.