Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

Supreme Court allows Passive Euthanasia

SC allows passive euthanasia, upholds 'right to die with dignity' Passive euthanasia is now legal: Supreme Court permits 'living will' for terminally ill patients
Frank Williams | 09 March, 2018, 18:13

In the case of Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union Of India & Ors (March 7, 2011), the Supreme Court had distinguished between "active" and "passive" euthanasia. "Instead, we started our fight for right to die", the couple says about their campaign.

The top Court also allowed an individual to draft a "living will" specifying that they not be put on life support if they slip into an incurable coma in the future.

The SC on Friday said that a person can decide when to give up the life support system and added that it has laid down guidelines on who would execute the will and how a nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by the medical board.

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.

The five-judge Constitution bench headed by the Chief Justice of India said, "human beings have a right to die with dignity". Apart from Justice Misra, the Bench comprised of Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan. It also distinguished between active and passive euthanasia. The Supreme Court has a year ago found merit in the concept of "living will", also termed as "advance medical directive", paving the way for further discussion.

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While the Centre was in agreement on the question of allowing passive euthanasia, it opposed the concept of living will. With the latest decision, the SC approved living will for terminally ill patients.

Secretary-General of the IMA, Dr R N Tandon said, "Just as every person has the right to life, they also have the right to die with dignity".

"A patient (terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state) exercising the right to refuse treatment may ardently wish to live but, at the same time, he may wish to be free from any medical surgery, drugs or treatment of any kind so as to avoid protracted physical suffering", the CJI, who wrote a 192-page separate judgement, said.

In the event of difference of opinion, the patient's nominee, his family member, treating doctor or hospital staff can move the high court for permission to withdraw life support, it said.

In 2015, the death of a 66-year-old nurse Aruna Shanbaug, who was sexually assaulted and left in a vegetative state for more than 40 years, had sparked a national debate over the legalisation of euthanasia.

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