Published: Sat, March 10, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

SC upholds passive euthansia, allows 'living will'

SC upholds passive euthansia, allows 'living will'

The Supreme Court also settled any ambiguity on allowing passive euthanasia as it cited the landmark Aruna Shanbaug case on 11 March 2011.

Living will is a document in a writing that allows a patient to give instructions in advance about the medical treatment they would like administered when they are terminally ill or can no longer express consent with regard to the treatment received.

In a landmark verdict, India's Supreme Court has ruled individuals have a right to die with dignity, allowing passive euthanasia. Dr BS Rajput, said, "Passive euthanasia is a good decision by the Supreme Court but the latest advancements of medical science like stem cell therapy should also be tried as a last measure to give them quality of life". 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.

It should indicate the decision relating to the circumstances in which withholding or withdrawal of medical treatment can be resorted to.

But the judge held that active euthanasia is unlawful.

The petitioners in the case before the apex court on Friday had argued that safeguards were needed while taking a decision by medical boards to withdraw life support of a terminally-ill patient. The CJI's judgment said the heart of the matter is whether law permits the acceleration of death without suffering. The goal and object of advance medical directive is to express the choice of a person regarding medical treatment in an event when he looses capacity to take a The right to execute an advance medical directive is nothing but a step towards protection of aforesaid right by an individual. "Recognition of the right to accept or refuse medical treatment is founded upon autonomy". Narayan (88) and Iravati (78) do not suffer from any terminal ailment but are motivated by the will to die after having lived a satisfactory life. Therefore, the SC said the relatives of a patient who has not written a "living will" can approach high courts asking for passive euthanasia.

"To deprive a person dignity at the end of life is to deprive him of a meaningful existence", Justice Chandrachud read from his opinion he shared with Justice Ashok Bhushan.

The court said that a person's advance directive or "living will" to withdraw medical care to allow him to die with dignity will take effect only when a medical board affirms that his/her condition is beyond cure and irreversible. In such a case, relatives will be spared the agonising decision of removing life support and doctors will be guided exclusively by the "living will". The court had said, "Active euthanasia entails the use of lethal substances or forces to kill a person, e.g. a lethal injection..." Previously, all forms of euthanasia were illegal.

Like this: