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Monday, August 8, 2011

Drunk cop sets himself ablaze, Willing for death over life support

Drunk cop sets himself ablaze, dies in hospital
Nitasha Natu, TNN | Aug 8, 2011, 06.21AM IST
Read more:Harishchandra Punjara|Government Railway Police|Dharavi police
MUMBAI: A constable with the government railway police (GRP) set himself ablaze inside his room at the Dharavi police quarters on Saturday. Harishchandra Punjara (46) suffered severe burns and died at Sion Hospital a few hours later.

Punjara was posted at the GRP chowky in Karjat. An alcoholic , Punjara had mental health issues, said sources.

Investigators said it is not clear whether Punjara intended to commit suicide or set himself ablaze in a drunken stupor.

Punjara is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter. "For the past eight months, he hadn't reported for work at the Karjat chowky," a police officer said. Punjara's family has told the investigators that he came back drunk and locked them out of the house on Saturday. He then set himself ablaze.

Willing’ for death over a life on support

Three Mumbaikars in their 70s create Living Wills, asking to be allowed to die rather than be kept on prolonged life-support

Bapu Deedwania
Freakin' Awesome! Freakin' Awesome! Freakin' Awesome! Freakin' Awesome! Freakin' Awesome!

Posted On Sunday, August 07, 2011 at 05:29:14 AM

What do you do if a loved one is battling for life on a hospital bed, unable to move, speak, or think, with machines controlling his bodily functions? How do you decide whether it's time to give up or fight on; to make him pull through at any cost, or simply ease the final passage? Three septuagenarians from south Mumbai, unrelated to each other, have drawn up 'living wills' that will leave guidelines for their family members on what is the way to go if they're in such a condition.

Choosing to end their life rather than survive on a life-support system, they have, in their wills, expressed the desire to be allowed natural deaths in the case of any illness that requires them to survive with the aid of machines for a prolonged period of time.

This concept of living wills is neither well-known nor easily executable in India. "People often say it is a form of a suicide, and therefore it is illegal. But that is not the case.

The person who makes this will is saying that, just like his property, he has a right to his body as well, and desire to dispose of it in manner he likes,” says solicitor Nityoah Mehta, who has drafted all three wills.

One of the cases is of a 76-year-old widower in the first stage of his cancer. His wife had died due to a medical condition which kept her in Intensive Care Unit for nearly two weeks before she passed away. “He spent lakhs on her treatment and suffered emotionally seeing his wife in a helpless condition. While drafting his will, he said that he did not want to experience the same pain, and did not want his son to go through the trauma,” Mehta said.

The other two cases are similar in nature, involving a 73 year-old woman and a 74-year-old man. But executing a living will is not a simple matter of drafting it and getting the requisite signatures.

In India, doctors are not allowed to stop treating a patient unless both the patient themselves and their family members express in writing what they want. The living will, therefore, stands null and void, and offers the doctor no legal protection, until the patient’s family members agree to its terms.

“The living will is addressed specifically to the treating physician or next of kin. It documents the dos and donts for the physician in the event of terminal illness, so that the person is not trapped in a tattered body. It includes detailed guidelines on situations under which the patient should not be put on life support system endlessly, but must be supported by his family members,” Mehta explained.

“It helps mainly in giving the family members guidelines of what to do, because the patient is rarely in a condition to make his desire for life or death known. This leaves family members confused. With a living will, they at least know what the patient wants,” she said.

In two of three cases, the creators of the will have taken their family into confidence. Should either of them face a medical emergency that puts them on life support, their family physician can inform the treating doctor about the living will, and have it executed after consultations with family members. In the third case, of the 76-year-old, his son has so far not been informed of the decision. “But he is desirous of telling him, with time,” Mehta said.

Two of three have specified in their living wills that they do not want tube feeding, or any other artificial form of nutrition or hydration for a prolonged period. The third has categorically said he doesn’t want to be on a mechanical respiratory system, advanced life-support, and long-term dialysis.

When contacted on the issue of living wills, Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi of Tata Memorial Hospital said that people have a right to dignified death, just as they have the right to a dignified life. “There are circumstances when a person is in such a condition that they are reduced to being vegetables with no hope of recovery. Their situation is of prolonged misery.

The concept of a living will help prevent such misery,” he said, but cautioned that the main challenge was determining at what point it should be activated. Also, he warned, that the entire mechanism should be sound so as to prevent misuse, and that a person who can be saved should not be lost.

The most famous case of living on prolonged life support is that of Aruna Shanbaug, who has been at Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital for 37 years. Once a bright and capable nurse, Shanbaug was violently raped by a sweeper at her hospital in 1973, and went into a coma following the brutal attack.

A petition for euthanasia was first filed for her by Pinky Virani, a journalist who says Shanbaug has been forced to live life without basic dignity. But the Supreme Court ruled that euthanasia is not a permissible option for Shanbaug on the basis of the current appeal.


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