Saturday, 21 October, 2017

Passive euthanasia: SC reserves verdict, may recognise living will

SC debates on future prospect in deciding quantum of insurance compensation A Will To Die Can Be Misused, Families Treat Elderly Like Burden: Supreme Court Judge
Melissa Porter | 12 October, 2017, 01:01

On a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause, the bench is also looking into if a direction can be given to the government to adopt suitable procedures to ensure that those with deteriorating health or the terminally ill should be able to execute a living will (or advanced plan) and attorney authorisation for termination of life.

Following the petition, in March 2011, the Supreme Court in its judgement laid down guidelines to process "Passive Euthanasia" in case of incompetent persons. The court will have to resolve the question whether the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution, which according to an earlier verdict does not include the right to die, is being voluntarily waived by a person giving such an advance directive.

A living will is made by a person in his normal state of mind that is to be executed if in the event of terminal illness he reached an irreversible vegetative state. "So, a living will can pose problems", he said. However, it does allow "passive euthanasia" where life support is withdrawn for patients in permanently vegetative state.

Narasimha further said that the the Centre had already accepted the court's Aruna Shanbaug ruling where a specific category of relatives were allowed to move the high court to seek permission for passive euthanasia, reported The Times of India. "As a medical practitioner for 45 years, I know of cases of patients in coma for years getting back to normal life", he said, asking if the choice of life or death is individualistic, can the PIL petitioner or the court decide this for others.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the non-governmental organisation, Common Cause, asked the bench whether the state could tell a patient suffering from cancer that only chemotherapy or radiation could help, and that he or she should not try alternative treatment. Should the law allow "living wills"? If the right to die in such extreme cases is deemed a fundamental right, as the government's lawyers argued before the Supreme Court Constitution Bench, it should become possible to grant the same right to those who may suffer this unfortunate plight. For doctors, does it mean an abandonment of their obligation to preserve life? Such living wills may be misused, said additional solicitor general PS Narasimha.

The present case has sought the enactment of a law along the lines of the Patient Autonomy and Self-determination Act of the U.S., which allow the practice of a living will, according to LiveLaw.

The government's bill was accessed by News18.

The Centre also informed the court that it had proposed to set up medical boards at district and state levels to decide individual cases of passive euthanasia. The bill recognises the concept of living will but does not make it binding on medical practitioners and says that i can not be executed by any patient since it would be considered void.