March 24, 2018

Main » India's top court upholds passive euthanasia with guidelines: chief justice

India's top court upholds passive euthanasia with guidelines: chief justice

11 March 2018

The Supreme Court March 9 said a person has the "right to die with dignity" and can make an advance "living will" authorizing the withdrawal of life support systems if in the view of medical professionals he or she has reached an irreversible stage of terminal illness.

May 11, 2005: SC takes note of PIL of NGO "Common Cause" seeking nod to allow terminally-ill persons to execute a living will for passive euthanasia. Justice Sikri who termed the issue at hand to be "thorny and complex" coming within the category of "hard cases" that a judge has to encounter, captured the emotion of his judgment by quoting the lyrics of a popular Bollywood number "Rote hue aate hain sab, hasta hua jo jayega..." from the movie "Muqaddar ka Sikandar".

The other three judges of the bench - Justices A K Sikri, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan - penned separate concurring verdicts in the combined judgment running into 538 pages.

Euthanasia as the meaning of words suggest is an act which leads to a good Some positive act is necessary to characterise the action as Euthanasia. A person can not be forced to live on support of ventilator.

The group sought legal recognition for the living will, saying the government was opposed to the concept and had not included it in its draft laws on passive euthanasia.

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. It differs from active euthanasia, which means killing a person through the use of lethal substance or force.

"Free will includes the right of a person to refuse medical treatment", he said.

Aruna's brain was severely injured in the attack, leaving her in a partially conscious and permanently vegetative state.

It shall be stated clearly as to when medical treatment may be withdrawn or no specific medical treatment shall be given which will only have the effect of delaying the process of death that may otherwise cause the patient pain, anguish and suffering and further put him or her in a state of indignity.

"It is a landmark decision in a resource-constraint country and would save a lot of salvageable patients by giving them opportunity to avail ventilator support", Dr Chatterjee, who is also joint editor of Indian Academy Geriatrics, said. "Not only is it a torture for the person and the family, but also increases the cost of stay at the hospitalThus this decision needs to be applauded". "But before passive euthanasia comes the question of the living will". "It was first in the case of Aruna Shanbaug that we actually started discussing the pros and cons of passive euthanasia", said Dr Avinash Supe, dean of KEM Hospital where Shanbaug, a nurse spent over 42 years in a vegetative state following assault and rape in the hospital.

File: India's Supreme Court is pictured through a gate in New Delhi, India May 26, 2016. However, it has also set out strict guidelines that will govern when and how it is permitted. Shanbaug was the face of the debate on euthanasia in India.

"Right to life and liberty as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution is meaningless unless it encompasses within its sphere individual dignity". Bhavna Kapadia, Chief Operating Officer of Dignity Foundation, too said that there was a need to be cautious as there could be hidden reasons why a person wanted to end his/her life.

India's top court upholds passive euthanasia with guidelines: chief justice