Recently we celebrated a day to laud Women in general. I from my side would like to applaud the efforts of one woman, who has braved criticism, and done a great favour to many who might now have a dignified death. (‘Might’, because there still is a maze of words called law which the society at large has yet to debate!)
I am talking about Ms. Pinki Virani who had filed a third party euthanasia plea for Aruna Shanbag. Ms. Virani lost the plea, but in her loss, is the gain for many an individual who are nothing more than dead. If it didn’t help Aruna, at least she got the subject out in the open and got the subject its much-needed due recognition. In Aruna’s case, there was celebration across nurse-dom. The Doctors and the Deans were ‘happy’ with the verdict and praised the court for showing mercy. All were happy, but Aruna, who is oblivious of all the efforts that a single woman took to help her.
I would like to recall a scene from a recent Hindi movie, Guzaarish, which is on the same subject. In one of the scenes, when the patient’s counsel, Shernaz Patel, suggests that they file the petition for euthanasia once again after having it dismissed earlier, his nurse, Aishwariya Rai, is agitated at the Counsel. The nurse goes on to say, that she has given her twelve long years, her family, her life to tend the patient and the Counsel wants to end it away? What about her tireless nursing for the last twelve years without break? The Counsel stoically reminds her, that the issue is not about her, but of the patient! That is the crux of the matter.
In the entire debate, everybody was thinking about themselves. The matrons, the nurses and the doctors on how they have tended to her so well that she doesn’t even have a single bed-sore. How some of them make it a point to visit her whenever they visit Mumbai. How they ‘feel’ that she understands and responds. How she calms down to ‘gentle touch’. All this even after knowing that her condition will not improve, but only go bad, as her bowel movements are going worse due to routine feeding, her teeth are giving in and how her brain has shrunk.
My singular question to all is; where does love end and pity begin?
Nobody thought of Aruna. Does she want to live? Does she even know that she has an option? Is it right to have her continue like this? Does she manage to communicate pain and discomfort, by her facial expressions the way she expresses joy and comfort, which everybody seems to understand so well?
The court went on the feedback given by the Hospital, which was emotional in its submission. During the proceedings, a Doctor went on record by saying that he could not put himself in her shoes. Exactly, none of us can, not even the nurses and ex-matrons. The court did not recognise Ms. Virani as her kin, and thus did not grant her a right to speak on her behalf. But then sometime back a mother filed a similar plea for her son, which too got rejected. (In that particular case the mother only wanted to donate her son’s organs if her plea for euthanasia was granted.)
Thanks to Ms. Virani, the story of Aruna came out in the open, till then she was just another patient in a ward at KEM. Thanks to Ms. Virani, the subject got debated and today we have some clarity on jargon associated with euthanasia. On her behalf, I would like to add, that here is a woman who felt the pain of another wronged woman, who was not related to her. She tried to bring dignity to Aruna, and in her failure she has brought dignity to many of her kind.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s not make a villain out of her by crying ‘Pinki Virani murdabad’, let’s applaud her guts and her efforts and the service that she has rendered to many who can’t speak for themselves.
Thank You, Ms. Virani.