Mar 12, 2018

Living Will

Bindu Kulkarni

This morning 10th March 2018, when I opened the newspaper, the headline in TOI “SC legalises passive euthanasia and living will, says right to life includes right to die” brought back a lot of memories.

My mother had written her “Living Will” in the year 2001, with hope that we could use it, if required and let her die a peaceful death. I still possess it as a memory of a person with grit, to whom dignity of life was as important as dignity of death.

I had a very modern mother, a lady born ahead of her time. She was born in Quetta in Pakistan in the year 1933. During partition she travelled to Mumbai with her relatives. As she was a young 14-year-old girl her parents were very concerned about her safety and thought she should leave Pakistan at the earliest. Without a ticket she travelled by ship from Karachi to Mumbai. In Mumbai she stayed at Versova along with her many relatives for a few years. Her stories of how she travelled to Grant Road for schooling along with fisherwomen in the bus seems like story from a history book. She completed her schooling, graduation, and post-graduation to become a teacher. She was the only one in her family of eight children to do a post-graduation. In a family where men were regarded as a privileged lot she fought her way to study and become an earning member of her family. She had a late marriage as it was difficult to find educated Sindhi men then and she was determined to get married to someone who was as educated as her. Her struggle did not end here, she worked hard to support her husband and bring up my brother and me. There were times when she had a financial crunch or health issues but she never lost hope.

She was a brave lady, one who fought legal battles to get custody of her house, she took care of my father who was unwell for about 10 years. She instilled in us the feeling of self-worth and gratitude. She never lost an opportunity to discuss life issues and challenges with us and how we could fight it. Life was not easy for her, as she had her set of health issues too. She lived with diabetes, arthritis, cardiac problems and survived breast cancer. Yet she was never dependent on any of us as she loved her independence and strived to maintain it. Even the day before she was admitted to the hospital she had gone shopping with her friend to buy vegetables for the house.

She believed in the “Living will” . She had written one 10 years before she expired and handed it over to me with signatures of witnesses so that I could use in the hour of need. I tried to use it when she was hospitalised and was on the ventilator but in vain as I was told “Living will” is not legal. I was in pain, I wanted fulfil my mother’s desire and not extend her life on life saving devices but get her home so that she could live her last few days with us and not in the cold hospital room. Then existing medical and legal system did not give me the freedom to execute her “Living Will”. Luckily she did not suffer too much and was on the ventilator for just two days. She lived her life with dignity and died with dignity with her children around her hospital bed.

Today, I am delighted that the Supreme court has passed the verdict. Justice Bhushan has mentioned in the verdict “An adult human being having mental capacity to take an informed decision has the right to refuse medical treatment including withdrawal from life saving devices”

Thank you for legalising the “Living Will”. Now we can have many more suffer less and not have a prolonged vegetative living.

Let us have the right to live and die with dignity. It’s my Life.

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