After fighting the odds for a decade to treat his son, who is in persistent vegetative state since his birth in 2008, a man has approached the Madras High Court, seeking permission to resort to passive euthanasia for the nine-year-old. R Thirumeni’s plea is the first-of-its-kind in the country after the Supreme Court in March this year held that the fundamental right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution includes the right to live with dignity till the end and it, therefore, includes the right to die with dignity.
The petitioner’s son T Paarvendhan also suffers from epileptic seizures, caused by a disturbance in the electrical activity of the brain, ranging between 10 and 20 times a day when controlled by medicines. The maximum number of seizures he has suffered in a day is 150, the petitioner’s counsel N Kavitha Rameshwar said.
Admitting the plea, a division bench of Justice N Kirubakaran and Justice S Baskaran asked the state to suggest a panel of doctors, who could give their recommendations to members of an expert committee to be constituted by the court. The committee would then examine the child and report to the court.
The court posted the matter to August 23, when the state would suggest the names of doctors to the committee. Thirumeni, a tailor by profession, has to spend Rs 10,000 per month to meet the medication expenses of his son. Since all the doctors he has consulted have concurred that there is no scope of recovery in such a case, the petitioner urged the court to permit him to withdraw all forms of food, nutrition and medicine to his son and smoothen his process of dying.
Presenting the case on behalf of Thirumeni, his counsel Rameshwar said, “Paarvendhan was born on September 30, 2008 at Kattumannarkoil. As the child did not cry after the birth, he was referred to child neurologists. “On November 6, 2008, it was confirmed that my son was suffering from Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE). He is in a state of wakefulness without any awareness about himself or about anything in the environment.”
“There is total motor disability and he cannot even sit but he is in a supine stretched out position always. He has sleep-wake cycles and must be fed mashed semisolid food forcibly thorough his mouth. All his bowel and bladder movements are involuntarily like any other function of the body,” Rameshwar said.
The petitioner’s other two children face social embarrassment as well as isolation and no asylum or home of any kind is willing to give any kind of shelter or palliative care to the child, the counsel added. Claiming that the case satisfies all characteristics of persons in PVS, the petitioner pointed out that the apex court has held that in case of a terminally-ill person in PVS, where the physician or the hospital medical board is not in a position to take a decision with respect to withdrawal of treatment, it is open to parents and family members of the patient to seek the relief.