A 43-old-woman from Palampur in Himachal Pradesh, who was afflicted by rheumatoid arthritis 21 years back when she was still a student, has sought the right to die, the second time in 6 years.
Despite getting the debilitating disease, Seema Sood completed her masters degrees in engineering sciences and information technology from the Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS), Pilani, winning a gold medal. She was on a heavy dose of steroids even then.
But living with the disease which has left her with extremely limited mobility is an everyday struggle for her and her family. She stays with her mother who is in her eighties, and too old to take care of her.
Six years back, Sood had petitioned the President of India for mercy killing. Now, the Supreme Court’s recent notice to states and UTs on a debate for legalizing passive euthanasia has made her appeal again as her condition has worsened. Now, she can manage to move only a few steps with the aid of a walker. She cannot comb her hair, bathe or do anything without assistance. Her sister, who lives a few kilometres away, comes over to help her sometimes.
In 1993, Seema was so severely hit by the joints’ disorder that she remained bed-ridden till 2008. “I had written to the then President, Pratibha Patil for mercy killing. But the Himachal government rushed me to a hospital for joint replacement and took care of the expenses,” said Sood.
Her hopes soared after replacement of her hip and knee joints in 2008, but the multiple surgeries weakened her muscles while the pain continued to disable her. “After reading about the SC notice on starting a debate on passive euthanasia, I wrote to PM Narendra Modi, appealing for the right to die,” she said.
Fed-up with the daily battle, Sood said, “All this is pointless now. I am unable to earn for myself. My relatives have also started giving up. It is frustrating as I cannot live with dignity.” With no regular source of income, she has been surviving on financial assistance from the BITS Alumni Association.