Monday, 27 March 2017

The dead too deserve to be treated with respect and dignity

The dead too deserve to be treated with respect and dignity Dr KK Aggarwal National President IMA “Be respectful” This is what we have been taught since childhood… our traditions and culture also teach us to always be respectful towards every living being, and not just towards another human being. The Right to Life is recognized in Article 3 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 6 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The ‘Right to life’ is enshrined in our constitution in Article 21, which says “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” The scope of Article 21 has been expanded over the years in various judgements of the Supreme Court by adding the dimensions of right to health and medical care among other things that are essential to life such as adequate nutrition, education, etc. The Right to life also means the ‘Right to live with human dignity’. In its judgement in Francis Coralie Mullin vs The Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi & Ors dated 13th January, 1981, the Apex Court held: “The right to life includes the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with it, namely, the bare necessaries of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter and facilities for reading, writing and expressing oneself in diverse forms, freely moving about and mixing and commingling with fellow human beings… Every act which offends against or impairs human dignity would constitute deprivation pro tanto of this right to live and it would have to be in accordance with reasonable, fair and just procedure established by law which stands the test of other fundamental rights…” It’s not just the living, who deserve our respect … the dead too deserve dignity just as the living do. A dead person has the right to be treated with dignity as exemplified by the right to a decent burial or cremation. A dead person has the right to remain undisturbed and unharmed. Section 297 of the Indian Penal Code ‘Trespassing on burial places, etc.’ has recognized it as a punishable offence and says, “Whoever, with the inten¬tion of wounding the feelings of any person, or of insulting the religion of any person, or with the knowledge that the feelings of any person are likely to be wounded, or that the religion of any person is likely to be insulted thereby, commits any trespass in any place of worship or on any place of sepulchre, or any place set apart from the performance of funeral rites or as a depository for the remains of the dead, or offers any indignity to any human corpse, or causes disturbance to any persons assembled for the performance of funeral ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.” Also, organs or tissues of a dead person can be harvested as defined under the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Rules, 2014. For most organs and tissues, the time between death and donation is 12 to 36 hours. The approximate maximum time span between recovering organs/tissues and transplantation for the following organs/tissues is: Lung (4-6 hours); Heart (4-6 hours); Liver (24 hours); Pancreas (24 hours); Kidney (72 hours); Corneas (14 days); Bone (5 years); Skin (5 years); Heart valves (10 years). A dead body is living as long as organs can be harvested and the dead body deserve to be treated with respect and dignity… Vedic texts describe five different movement forces in the body: apana vayu expulses urine, stool, baby and menses; samana vayu controls the intestinal movements; vyana vayu controls the circulatory system; udana vayu controls the neurological impulses and the connection between soul and spirit and prana vayu controls the brain stem reflexes. The Soul or consciousness is linked to udana vayu and prana vayu. According to the Chandokya Upanishad, at the time of death, the Prana Vayu (life force and respiration) merges with Udana Vayu (brain stem reflexes) and leaves the body. But this does not happen immediately after clinical death, which is defined as stoppage of heart and respiration. Except for cornea many organs can be harvested for donation after a person has been declared as brain dead. The vital organs of the body such as the heart, lungs, liver, intestine, kidneys can be kept viable for some time, if a brain-dead person is kept on a ventilator to maintain oxygenation of organs, so that organs remain viable till they are harvested. This is because the body has normal Prana Vavy, Samana Vayu and Apana vavy. The patient will maintain blood pressure, GI functions, urinary functions and reproductive functions. The life force resides in each one of us… This vital force is the soul, Atman or consciousness. To summarise, a living person has a right to live with dignity so does a dead body with retrievable organs and tissues (as it is considered still a living body) and finally the fully dead body, including the mummified body or the cadaver, also needs to be treated with dignity

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