In 2007 an infection swept through the pomegranate trees of Hyderabad-Karnataka in India. Pomegrates are a profitable export crop into countries like Germany, Switzerland, France, and Canada. Farmers had borrowed heavily to invest in pomegranates and the disease brought them to their knees. Then came floods. The banks threatened to foreclose. Politicians promised relief and did nothing.
Three hundred of these despairing farmers have a solution: they have petitioned the local governor for mercy killing, ie, euthanasia: "No yield, no money to repay the loans. The only option before us is to die," they say.
On the other side of the country, in Jharkhand, 130 prisoners have also petitioned the local governor for mercy killing. They claim that they have spent 20 years in jail and have done their time but the authorities have done nothing. They are suffering from extreme mental trauma and say that death is better than the lives they are living now.
Such requests for “mercy killing” are relatively common in the Indian media, believe it or not. Perhaps they are genuine. Perhaps they are calculated to capture the media spotlight. But in any case, no one is going to die. Euthanasia is illegal.
However, it’s easy to see how dangerous it could be for desperate people. Bureaucrats would rubberstamp their application for a lethal needle, for it would be easier to kill the petitioners than to give them jobs. If euthanasia were legal, people would die simply because they were luckless and poor.
Is there a lesson for us in more developed countries? I think so. As a committee of the Scottish Parliament wrote in a thorough report this week about an assisted suicide bill (see below), “there is no way to guarantee the absence of coercion in the context of assisted suicide.”
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