In southern India, relatives sometimes quietly kill their elders
The practice often begins with an oil bath. In some cases, the parent is sick and in pain. In others, experts say, relatives want to gain control of the estate.
By Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times
INNAMREDIYARPATTI, India — Michael headed for work at a textile mill, leaving his wife, children and infirm mother at home in this impoverished part of southern India. When he returned a few hours later, his mother's body was propped up in a chair surrounded by villagers and decorated with flowers, poisoned by his wife with a potion in a local form of mercy killing known as thalaikoothal.
Three decades later, he harbors no ill will toward his wife. "My mother had been sick and in pain for 20 days and wasn't eating properly," said Michael, 62, who like many southern Indians uses one name. "I was thinking of doing it myself. It was time, and there wasn't enough food to go around."
Even as India debates the morality and legality of euthanasia, three districts in the southern state of Tamil Nadu have been quietly carrying out a homegrown version for decades, or centuries, depending on whom you ask.
The practice in one small corner of India has declined under the spotlight after a high-profile 2010 case and growing opposition from elderly rights groups, but dozens, even hundreds, of cases of thalaikoothal, or "head pouring," occur quietly each year, people say.