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Thalaikoothal (Tamil: தலைக்கூத்தல், lit. showering)[needs Tamil IPA] is the traditional practice of senicide (killing of the elderly) or involuntary euthanasia, by their own family members, observed in some parts of southern districts of Tamil Nadu state of India.


Typically, the elderly person is given an extensive oil-bath early in the morning and subsequently made to drink glasses of tender coconut water which results in renal failure, high fever, fits, and death within a day or two.[1][2] This technique may also involve a head massage with cold water, which may lower body temperature sufficiently to cause heart failure.[3] Alternative methods involve force feeding cow's milk while plugging the nose, causing breathing difficulties (the "milk therapy") or use of poisons.[3]


Although thalaikoothal is illegal in India,[4] the practice has long received covert social acceptance as a form of mercy killing, and people seldom complain to the police.[5] In some case the family informs their relatives before performing thalaikoothal,[6] and the victims sometimes even request it.[3] However, social acceptance may lead to more egregious abuses: the issue gained a higher profile in early 2010, when an 80-year-old man escaped when he came to know of his fate and heard his family members discussing how they were going to "share" his lands, and took refuge in a relative's home.[5]

Investigation revealed the practice to be "fairly widespread "in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu.[4][5] Dozens or perhaps hundreds of cases occur each year.[3]


In 2010, after an exposé in Virudhunagar district the administration set up teams of officers to monitor the senior citizens.[5][6]


  1. ^ "After thalaikoothal scare, 80-year-old fights back". Deccan Chronicle. June 15, 2010. Archived from the original on November 18, 2010.
  2. ^ "Mother, shall I put you to sleep?". Tehelka. 7 (46). November 20, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d Magnier, Mark (January 15, 2013). "In southern India, relatives sometimes quietly kill their elders". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
  4. ^ a b "No mercy killing, this". The Hindu. March 20, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d "'Mercy killing' in TN villages". Deccan Chronicle. January 26, 2010. Archived from the original on January 15, 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Family murders of elders to be probed". Deccan Chronicle, Chennai. February 2, 2010. Archived from the original on February 6, 2010.

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