Journal of Medical Ethics vol:38 issue:7 pages:431-434
To many in India and elsewhere, the life and thought of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is a source of inspiration. In his thinking, the idea of non-violence was pivotal. In this context, Gandhi reflected upon the possibility of what is now called euthanasia and assisted suicide. So far, his views on these practices have not been properly studied. In his reflections on euthanasia and assisted suicide, Gandhi shows himself as a contextual flexible thinker. Notwithstanding being a staunch defender of non-violence, Gandhi was aware that violence may sometimes be unavoidable. Under certain conditions, killing a living being could even be an expression of non-violence. Gandhi argued that in a few rare cases it may be better to kill people who are suffering unbearably at the end of life. In this way, Gandhi seems to support euthanasia and assisted suicide. Yet, Gandhi also thought that as long as care can be extended to a dying patient, his or her suffering could be relieved. Since in most cases relief was thus possible, euthanasia and assisted suicide were in fact redundant. By stressing the importance of care and nursing as an alternative to euthanasia and assisted suicide, Gandhi unconsciously made himself into some kind of early advocate of palliative care in India. This observation could be used to strengthen and promote the further development of palliative care in India.