A ruling that proves that the law not only has a long arm but also has a heart:
The constitution may not favour euthanasia but the law can definitely find a humane way out of a problem that cries out for mercy killing as a solution.
It was the desperation of Shobha Ganesh Rohi that led the court to take this noteworthy step.
Shobha is a 30-year-old agricultural labourer who makes a living by doing odd jobs. Her 10-year-old daughter, Pranjali, has been suffering from an unknown cancer that has been eating at her hearing and thinking abilities. She suffers excruciating pain owing to the formation of pus in the ear. With her meagre income of Rs 20/- per day, Shobha is unable to afford the treatment. Her daily wages can barely cover the cost of the painkillers that Pranjali needs. What's worse, her feeble resources have to stretch to cover the expenses of two other daughters and a husband, who is a mentally ill vagabond and cares little for the family.
Unable to bear the sight of her daughter suffering, Shobha wrote a letter to the High Court bench in Nagpur, requesting mercy killing for her daughter.
Failing that, she demanded that her daughter be granted medical treatment at government expense.
The High Court treated the letter as a criminal writ petition and ordered the government to bear the cost of treatment at the Rashtra Sant Tukdoji Maharaj Cancer Hospital and Research Centre. The case has now been referred to the Leprosy Treatment Centre at Kathora in Achalpur Tehsil.
In a landmark ruling, the court decreed that mercy killing was unconstitutional, but that the court could make provisions for free treatment for the child. The court also granted free transport to bring Pranjali to the Government Medical College at Nagpur for diagnosis.
The whole arrangement was to be set into motion within a week. Two officers were appointed to ensure that the arrangement worked smoothly and they had to report on the progress of the patients health.
Left to herself, Shobha would have had no other option but to wait for things to take their natural course. Thanks to the positive stand taken by the court, she has the satisfaction of knowing that everything within the realm of medical science is being done for her daughter. In that sense, this is a landmark ruling. Without amending the existing law on euthanasia, the court has prevailed upon the state government to take a step that it should have taken of its own accord, thereby acting in a sympathetic manner. While this ruling does not lessen Shobha's anguish and Pranjali's pain, it shows that a humane verdict can achieve results even in a difficult situation