LHC explores euthanasia in herbalist case

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ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has rejected a peculiar writ petition filed by a self-proclaimed hakeem, who sought permission to publicly ingest poison at Lahore’s Mochi Darwaza. His avowed aim was to demonstrate the miraculous healing powers of one of his medicines, claiming it could cure cancer patients.

A single-member bench of the LHC, presided over by Justice Raheel Kamran, unveiled its comprehensive seven-page verdict on October 12. The judgment delved into the topics of euthanasia, or mercy killing, and the legal aspects related to drug manufacturing and distribution in Pakistan.

It said that in some countries including India, there is some judicial acceptance of euthanasia in recognition of persons ‟fundamental right to die with dignity”. It said Islam is the state religion of Pakistan, which is manifest from Article 2 of the Constitution.

“If at all and how far the plea of euthanasia is tenable in Pakistan in the context of provisions of Articles 2A, 14 and 20 of the Constitution is not a matter in issue here, therefore, it would not be appropriate for this court to delve into that question.

“However, when the petitioner is not a terminally ill patient and the permission is not being sought to limit his experience of great pain and suffering rather for the purpose of life risking experiment to create public spectacle, no direction for the grant of such permission is warranted by law.

“Needless to observe here that such permission, if issued, may disturb public order and encourage others to indulge in such unlawful practice,” it said.

The LHC, however, noted that attempt to commit suicide in Pakistan has been decriminalized with effect from December 28, 2022 when the offence under Section 325 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (PPC) was omitted  through Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2022.

It also stated that it would be inappropriate to allow the petitioner to publicly consume any substance which is not registered with the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) after trials and evaluation of its safety and efficacy when the same not only constitutes violation of law but criminal offences.

The judgment said Schedule II of the DRAP Act, 2012 specifies prohibitions which constitute offences punishable under Schedule III, as mandated by Section 27 of that Act. Sub-sections (xxxvi) & (ii) of Section 2 of the DRAP Act respectively define “therapeutic goods” to include drugs or alternative medicine or medical devices or biologicals or other related products as may be notified by the authority and “alternative medicine” to mean a product used exclusively in Homeopathic, Unani, Ayurvedic, Biochemic, Chinese or other traditional system of treatment.

“What the petitioner seeks in relief in the instant case is surely a public representation of his act of consumption of a substance that he believes would not cause his death but may cure and recover cancer patients.

“The relief sought by the petitioner, if allowed, is not only likely to be in violation of these prohibitions constituting offences but perpetuate anarchy in the field of drugs,” it noted.

The LHC also referred to the Poisons Act, 1919,  enacted to regulate importation, possession and sale of poisons.

“Section 4 of that legislation confers power upon the provincial government to regulate possession of any specified poison in any local area and in that regard, it also prescribes an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or fine specified therein.

“Section 5 of the said act draws a presumption that any substance specified as poison in a rule framed under Section 8 of the Poisons Act is deemed to be a poison for the purpose of that act. Additionally, storage, use in drugs and labelling of poisonous substances is regulated by the Drugs Act, 1976 and rule 20 of the Punjab Drug Rules, 2007.”

It said issuance of the direction prayed for might also have the effect of undermining the role and authority of laws. It noted that the petition appeared to be more of a publicity stunt behind the veil of public interest, “which cannot be entertained and is liable to be dismissed outrightly”.

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