SC verdict in Aruna mercy killing plea today

New Delhi: The Supreme Court will on Monday pronounce its judgement on a plea for mercy killing of a Mumbai nurse Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug who has been living a vegetative existence in the hospital for the last 37 years after being subjected to sexual assault.

A bench of justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra had on March 2 reserved the verdict after hearing submissions of Attorney General G E Vanhanvati, senior counsel T R Andhiarujina acting as an amicus curiae, petitioner`s counsel Sekhar Naphade and senior advocate Pallabh Sisodia for King Edward Memorial Hospital.

The plea for Aruna`s mercy killing had been made by author Pinki Virani who told the court that Aruna was in a vegetative state for 37 years and the only option to rid her of the distress was to take recourse to euthanasia(mercy killing).

Aruna, a nurse in the KEM hospital in Mumbai, was attacked by a sweeper who wrapped a dog chain around her neck and yanked the victim with it on November 27, 1973 after which he sexually assaulted her.

He tried to rape the victim but finding that she was menstruating, indulged in anal sex. To immobilise her during this act, he twisted the chain around her neck and fled the scene after committing the heinous offence.

Virani said that due to strangulation by the chain the supply of oxygen to the brain stopped and the cortex damaged. She also had brain stem contusion injury associated with cervical cord injury.

According to the petitioner, for the past 37 years after the incident Aruna, who is now about 60 years old, has become "featherweight" and her bones are brittle.

Her wrists are twisted in wards, teeth decayed and she can only be given mashed food on which she survives, said Virani adding Aruna`s brain is virtually dead and she is oblivious to the outside world.

She can neither see nor hear anything nor can she express herself or communicate in any manner, whatsoever, she said in her plea for mercy killing.

During the arguments, Vahanvati took the stand that there is no provision either under the statute or the Constitution to permit euthanasia.

Andhiarujina and Sisodia too opposed the plea contending that the hospital staff, particularly the nurses and the doctors who have been taking "dedicated care" of Aruna for the past 37 years were keen on continuing to take care of her.

The apex court had earlier appointed a 3-member medical team to assist it in determining the issue of mercy killing, besides examining the physical condition of the brain dead nurse.

The team of Mumbai doctors J V Divatia, Roop Gurshani and Nilesh Shah had submitted their detailed report to the bench.