Published: Sat, March 10, 2018
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

India's Top Court Legalizes Passive Euthanasia, Living Will

India's Top Court Legalizes Passive Euthanasia, Living Will

It was only in Aruna ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India, the Apex Court had held that passive euthanasia can be allowed but only under exceptional circumstances under the strict monitoring of the Court.

The order was passed by a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.

The 5 judges had written four separate judgments expressing their views, but concurred on allowing passive euthanasia and advance directive.

The court also said that human beings have the right to die with dignity. Voluntary euthanasia is legal in some countries.

SC allows passive euthanasia, upholds 'right to die with dignity'
Passive euthanasia is now legal: Supreme Court permits 'living will' for terminally ill patients

He said, "We come across many terminally ill patients and families who feel burdened and express the feeling to die in peace rather than getting subjected to the dehumanising experience of being stranded on futile life support". Right to life includes right to die with dignity.

Justice Chandrachud weaved the right to privacy into the issue by saying, "Continuing treatment against the wishes of a patient is not only a violation of the principle of informed consent, but also of bodily privacy and integrity recognised as a facet of privacy". Until the bill takes the shape of a law, the Supreme Court's guidelines will be in force to execute any case related to passive euthanasia.

The "advance directives" can be issued and executed by "next friend and relatives" of terminally ill people but a medical board to take a final call.

The bench has said that advance directive by a person in the form of "living will" can even be approved by a magistrate. The guidelines included seeking a declaration from a high court, after getting clearance from a medical board and state government.

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"Right to life includes right to die with dignity".

A typical LW takes effect when the person is terminally ill without chance of recovery and outlines the desire to withhold heroic measures. Passive euthanasia, which draws strength from the living will of patients, will put an end to the ignominy of a person reduced to a living corpse.

Passive euthanasia involves stopping medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten the death of a terminally ill patient.

Chief Justice Misra, in a common judgment with Justice AM Khanwilkar, said it was time to "alleviate the agony of an individual" and stand by his right to a dignified passing.

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Rights of a competent patient: Every competent patient (including minors above the age of 16 years) will have the right to decide and request the medical practitioner to withhold, withdraw, or continue medical treatment in case of a terminal illness.

However, both suicide and refusal to take treatment in case of terminal ailment shall result in the same consequences, that is death, "yet refusal to take treatment by itself can not amount to suicide", it said.

Active euthanasia, the intentional act of causing the death of a patient in great suffering, is illegal in India. Instead, an attempt can be made to provide safeguards for exercise of such advance directive.

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