Aruna Shanbaug

Who Ultimately Decides When Is The Time To Die?

Sometimes human body suffers such irreparable damage that even after all possible efforts, it’s not possible to go ahead with it anymore. Then the person should be allowed a Willful death. Here, I’ve discussed 2 such cases.

The moment a human or any life form is born, it’s certain that sooner or later IT WILL DIE. Parents give you birth, but who has the right over your life? How long do you want to live & when do you want to stop this game – who will decide all this? You, your family, the government, or any judicial authority? Or humans are still not sane enough to decide it? Does this saneness differ from country to country?

Who is Hisashi Ouchi? What happened to him?

35 years old Hisashi Ouchi worked at the lab in Tokaimura Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. He met a severe nuclear accident in 1999. He and 2 other workers were manually pouring Uranium into a huge metal vat. Due to a miscalculation, they poured 16kg of uranium in place of 2.4kg. As a result, the liquid reached a ‘critical point’ and released dangerous neutron radiation and gamma rays into the atmosphere.

Willful death
Hisashi Ouchi
(Image credit –

All 3 persons got radiation injuries, but Hisashi was the most severely injured. Out of the other 2 persons, one died within a few days and another one recovered. But, Hisashi could neither die nor recover. He had suffered serious radiation burns to most of his body, severe damage to his internal organs, and his skin, and had a near-zero white blood cell count.

Why was Hisashi Ouchi kept alive?

At the wishes of his family, doctors repeatedly revived Ouchi, even as it became clear that the damage his body had sustained through radiation was untreatable. Nuclear accidents are not a routine thing, doctors were just trying everything to save this young man.

His body absorbed 17 Sieverts of radiation while even 0.5 sieverts is considered too much for a human body. Without a functioning immune system, Doctors placed Ouchi in a special radiation ward to limit the risk of contracting an infection. They attempted to restore some functionality to Ouchi’s immune system with different techniques.

However, after receiving the transplant from his sister, Ouchi initially responded but again his condition deteriorated. He started bleeding from his eyeballs and virtually “cried blood”. His skin was falling down from his body.

Ouchi begged the doctors to stop saying that “I can’t take it any more! I am not a guinea pig!” as reports say. On the 59th day of his time in hospital, Ouchi’s heart gave out three times. However, doctors somehow started it again.

He craved death for 83 days. On 21 December 1999, Ouchi’s body eventually gave out and he died as a result of multiple organ failures.

Aruna Shanbaug Comma case

Another such case is of Aruna Shanbaug, born in 1948. She worked as a staff nurse at the KEM hospital, in Mumbai. A staff boy brutally raped her on November 27, 1973, at age of 25. Then, he strangled her with a dog chain, which cut off the oxygen supply from her brain.

It left her blind, deaf, paralyzed, and in a vegetative state for the next 42 years. Aruna could only survive on mashed food. She could not move her hands or legs, could not talk, or perform the basic functions of a human being.

Aruna Shanbaug
Aruna Shanbaug, before & after
Image Credit:

How did Aruna Shanbaug died?

In 2009, journalist Pinki Virania filed a plea for euthanasia for Aruna. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India set up a medical panel to examine her. However, on the basis of the report, it turned down the mercy killing petition in 2011.

But, it allowed “passive euthanasia” by withdrawing life support to patients in a permanently vegetative state (PVS), through a high-court monitored mechanism. Finally, she died of pneumonia on May 18, 2015.

A Killing Machine ‘Sarco’ for Euthanasia

In a bizarre development, a machine named ‘Sarco’, that facilitates assisted suicide, has been designed. Switzerland has approved it for conducting Euthanasia. This machine claims to provide painless death to the individual within less than a minute by causing hypoxia and hypocapnia.

This process reduces the oxygen supply in the tissues to an extremely low level. Further, it reduces carbon dioxide also in the blood below optimum levels, leading to death.

Willful death by Euthanasia

The coffin-shaped device also consists of a detachable base, which is biodegradable and can later serve as a coffin as well.

The person lying inside it can just blink their eyes and give permission to kill themselves. A special feature captures the signal from blinking eyes. It has been designed for people who are terminally ill and suffer from diseases like locked-in syndrome. In this syndrome, the whole body of the patient is paralyzed and only the eyes can move voluntarily.

Assisted suicide is permitted in Switzerland. According to an estimate around 1,300 people have used euthanasia through organizations like Dignitas last year. The terminology around euthanasia is sometimes inconsistently applied, but there is a difference between euthanasia, assisted suicide, and assisted dying. Only a few countries in the world have considered this need and passed different laws. However, a debate is going on in many countries.

Why consider “Willful death” at all?

The Existence/Supreme power (by whatever name you call it) gave life to live. Avail this chance by all possible means & why to even think about finishing it? Face the struggle! But, as discussed in the above cases and found in many other similar cases, where people suffer from untreatable ailments or conditions, a solution is needed.

When an insect decided the fate of someone great!

Such people become suicidal and keep finding ways to die. They often keep asking others “when will I die”? or they openly say “kill me”! So, if the human body somehow suffered such irrecoverable losses, that even after all possible efforts, it is not possible to revive them, then it would not be wrong to consider the possible means of ending the unbearable suffering.

Who can make the final decision about Willful death?

A very important question in this scenario is ultimately who will make the final decision in such cases? Parents (in case of minors), or children (in case of very old patients), doctors or legal heirs, or any judicial courts? In my opinion, only the person himself should make this decision. Provided, the person can understand the situation and give consent, maybe by eye blinking.

Note:- I am in no way advocating suicide or death. Live your best life, but if life has become impossible due to any circumstances then there must be some way out to end pain and suffering. I just want a discussion on this topic on a humanitarian basis.

What’s your opinion? Tell me in the comments below.

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  • Search words – Koma, Who is Aruna Shanbaug? Is Aruna Shanbaug still alive?

3 thoughts on “Who Ultimately Decides When Is The Time To Die?”

    1. It’s not easy for any person of an ordinary mindset to decide to leave the body. But, Hisashi Ouchi’s body suddenly suffered such irreparable damage that life became impossible and became a bigger suffering than death, and he was craving for death.

      Further, I feel that it was an extraordinary case for the doctors also. They must not have treated such patients earlier. Radioactive exposure is not a routine thing.

  1. I’ve heard discussion and news about this over the past couple of decades and it’s interesting to see how it’s being tackled and understood as time goes on. It’s a highly nuanced issue — thanks for sharing some info about it.

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