Love & Death: Bollywood tackles assisted suicide

Jennifer Hancock in The Humanist:

Hancock2-300x240Suicide is a complex issue. To fully understand the implications of any assisted-suicide policy, we ideally should weigh the pros and cons. The problem is that most of our discussions about it are polarized. We choose a side based on personal or partisan preferences and argue without really engaging in the proper give-and-take that’s required for critical thinking. Likewise, one of the reasons it’s so hard to have a rational conversation about a person seeking help to end their life is that we all have a tendency to want to impose our ideas and our preferences on the actions and decisions of others. Do any of us have the right to second-guess another person’s decision about something as intimate as whether to continue living or not? And yet second-guessing is what we all do.

This brings us to Guzaarish (which in English means “request”). Ethan Mascarenhas (played by Hrithik) is a former magician paralyzed from the neck down as a result of a stage accident. He’s made a new career for himself as a motivational disc jockey, encouraging his listeners not to give up hope. It doesn’t matter your situation, he tells them, live life to the fullest and live life joyously. Indeed, Ethan is a very humanistic character. But on the fourteenth anniversary of his accident, when he calls his lawyer and friend Devyani to request her assistance in obtaining the right to commit suicide, his message comes into question. After a judge rejects Ethan’s petition, Devyani urges him to garner public support through his radio show. His campaign, which he dubs “Project Euthanasia,” becomes a big story. People are shocked and everyone in the country thinks they have the right to weigh in on whether Ethan should be allowed to die or not.

More here.