Published: Sat, March 10, 2018
Health Care | By Alberto Manning

Passive Euthanasia, living will passed by the Supreme Court

Passive Euthanasia, living will passed by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that individuals have a right to die with dignity, in a verdict that permits the removal of life-support systems for the terminally ill or those in incurable comas.

The order was passed by a five-judge Constitution bench of Chief Justice (CJI) Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan.

However, strict guidelines have been put in place before executing such a will to ensure the provision is not misused. At this juncture, the right to refuse medical treatment comes into the picture.

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.

"This is indeed a landmark judgement as it allows those dying to leave with dignity as well as respects their wishes", Gupta, founder of CanSupport, said. It should disclose that the executor has understood the consequences of executing such a document.

The court has directed that a statutory medical board should be set up to approve such wills.

Such instances are then followed up by the patient's request for Euthanasia. The court also talked of involving a medical board to determine whether the patient in a vegetative state could be revived or not.

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While reserving the order on 11 October, 2017, the Constitution Bench had observed that the right to die in peace could not be separated from Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug's case was instrumental in bringing this change.

Passive Euthanasia or mercy killing, living will, as it is called is now a reality in India, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling.

Minakshi Biswas, research scholar and expert on euthanasia, said however that there are many factors to be considered before allowing passive euthanasia.

The NGO was represented by Prashant Bhushan in the top court.

Various medical and legal dictionaries say passive euthanasia is the act of hastening the death of a terminally-ill patient by altering some form of support and letting nature take its course.

Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, had said that under Article 21 (right to life) a person had the right to die peacefully without any suffering and must be allowed to create a living will for a time when he can not recover from an illness.

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