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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 December, 2004, 17:24 GMT
Indian sparks euthanasia debate
Venkatesh
Venkatesh has been on life support for two weeks
An Indian court's refusal to allow a terminally-ill patient to donate his organs has triggered a legal debate.

Venkatesh, 25, has a genetic neurological disorder and wants his life support system turned off before his organs suffer irreparable damage.

But euthanasia is outlawed in India and organ donation may only take place if the donor is declared brain dead.

The case has prompted some experts to demand a change in the laws. Venkatesh will now petition the Supreme Court.

Condition 'worsening'

Venkatesh, a former national chess champion, has been in hospital in the southern city of Hyderabad for more than seven months, battling Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy.

Venkatesh's mother
Venkatesh's mother is taking the case to the Supreme Court
The disorder degenerates the body's muscles, heart and lungs. For the past two weeks he has been on a life support system.

Doctors say his condition is worsening. Even breathing is difficult because of acute respiratory problems.

He wants to donate his heart, kidneys and liver before it is too late.

"I want to donate my organs to help another life," he wrote in a note.

His mother appealed to the Andhra Pradesh High Court after failing to persuade the hospital authorities to switch her son's life support system off.

The hospital said it amounted to euthanasia or mercy killing, which is illegal in India. The court agreed.

"The law does not allow transplanting organs from a person who is still alive," High Court judges Devender Gupta and Narayan Reddy said.

"The existing law has no such provision and such a request cannot be conceded," they added.

'Change the law'

But calls are now growing for a wider debate on the issue of organ donation.

Some analysts argue that the law must be changed to allow people with different medical conditions to donate their organs.

Lawyers and others warn that changes to the law could be abused.

India and other South Asian nations have a thriving illegal trade in organ donation.

The issue will now be settled by the highest court in the country.


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The case is due to go to the Supreme Court



SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Living wills
14 Dec 04 |  Health
Pakistan's kidney donor crisis
13 Dec 04 |  South Asia
Nepal's trade of doom
21 Sep 04 |  South Asia
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05 Aug 04 |  Magazine


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