Thursday, 24 January, 2019

Supreme Court to deliver verdict on passive euthanasia and living will

India’s SC allows ‘living wills’ for terminally ill Supreme Court to deliver verdict on passive euthanasia and living will
Theresa Hayes | 09 March, 2018, 18:13

The Supreme Court has framed strict guidelines and formed a medical panel for passive euthanasia.

A living will is a document prepared by a person in their healthy/sound state of mind under which they can specify in advance whether or not they would like to opt for artificial life support, if he/she is in a vegetative state due to an irreversible terminal illness in the future.

In a landmark judgement today, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra legalised passive euthanasia.

While reading out the judgment, the chief justice observed that though there were four separate opinions of the bench, all the judges were unanimous that "living will" should be permitted.

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court made passive euthanasia permissible under specific guidelines Friday (March 9). Therefore, the SC said the relatives of a patient who has not written a "living will" can approach High Courts asking for passive euthanasia.

Passive euthanasia entails a patient being allowed to die by limiting medical intervention, not escalating already aggressive treatment, withholding or withdrawing artificial life support in cases that are judged to be medically futile.

"How can a person be told that he / she does not have right to prevent torture on his body?" It also distinguished between active and passive euthanasia.

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. The court had said, "Active euthanasia entails the use of lethal substances or forces to kill a person, e.g. a lethal injection..."

Hence, the court, Justice Sikri said, is rightly in favour of the right to die with dignity.

Government opposition: Although the government has no problem with practicing passive euthanasia as devised under the Aruna Shanbaug verdict but it has opposed living will in principle.

Asserting that "life and death are inseparable", Justice Chandrachud said: "Dying is a process of living... as human beings, we are bound to protect our integrity".

"In the 21st century, with the advancement of technology in medical care, it has become possible, with the help of support machines, to prolong the death of patients for months and even years in some cases". Dr Aggarwal said that such ADs can also be revoked orally or in writing by the patient at any time so long as he or she has maintained decisional capacity.