CHENNAI: Unable to watch the plight of his nine-year-old son, who has been in a vegetative state from his birth, a man has moved the Madras High Court seeking euthanasia. According to R Thirumeni, his son T Paarvendhan was suffering not only from the persistent vegetative state (PVS) but also from epileptic seizures, which may occur 150 times a day. Thirumeni, a tailor with the meagre income, has been spending about `10,000 a month for treating his son’s epileptic seizures.
Perhaps this is the first case ever since a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on March 18 last, in a common cause case, held that the fundamental right to life guaranteed under Article 21 includes the right to live with dignity till the end and it, therefore, includes the right to die with dignity. After listening to the preliminary arguments of advocate N Kavitha, a division bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and S Baskaran admitted the PIL petition and directed the state to suggest by August 23 senior doctors to form an expert panel to assess the health condition of the boy.
Since all doctors have opined that there is absolutely no scope of recovery, as the damage to the brain is total, the petitioner wanted the court to permit him to withdraw all forms of food, nutrition and medicine and allow his son to have a smooth process of death. Earlier, Kavitha told the judges that Paarvendhan was born on September 30, 2008, at Kattumannarkoil. As the child did not cry after the birth, he was referred to child neurologists. Later, in November in the same year, it was confirmed that the child was suffering from Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE). He has been in a state of wakefulness without any awareness about himself or about anything in the environment.
There is a 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 through the mouth. All his bowel and bladder movements are involuntary like any other function of the body. The constant and continuous bawling of the child causes severe disturbance and trauma to people inside his rented house and his neighbours. The petitioner’s two other children faced social embarrassment and isolation and no asylum or home of any kind is willing to give any kind of shelter or palliative care to the child, the council added.
Claiming that the present case satisfies all characteristics of persons in PVS, the counsel pointed out that the Supreme Court has held that in case of a terminally ill persons or persons 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 the parents and family members of the patient to seek the relief, she added.