Top India court upholds passive euthanasia

Top India court upholds passive euthanasia

Top India court upholds passive euthanasia

Passive euthanasia will apply only to a terminally ill person with no hope of recovery, a panel of five judges said.

"There is no right to die' under Article 21 of the Constitution and the right to life includes the right to live with human dignity but in the case of a dying person who is terminally ill or in permanent vegetative state, he may be allowed a premature extinction of his life and it would not amount to a crime", read the SC judgement.

If permission to withdraw medical treatment is refused by the Medical Board, it would be open to the patient or his family members or even the treating doctor or the hospital staff to approach the high court and its chief justice will have to constitute a division bench to decide upon case.

Bhushan had filed a petition to the Supreme Court on behalf of a registered society, Common Cause, seeking recognition of the right to establish a living will.

The court's verdict came on a plea filed in 2005 by the NGO Common Cause seeking the right to make a living will authorizing the withdrawal of life support system in the event of the will-makers reaching an irreversible vegetative state. Second is the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPAHC) or Health Care Proxy and third is the Living Will (LW).

The government has no problem with passive euthanasia as devised under the Aruna Shanbaug verdict, but it has opposed Living Will in principle.

In a separate opinion, Justice Chandrachud observed that modern medical science should balance its quest to prolong life with need to provide patients quality of life.

The Supreme Court of India upheld the right to die with dignity as a fundamental right.

Also termed as "advance medical directive", it is a direction issued by an individual that "he or she shall or shall not be given medical treatment in future when or he she becomes terminally ill". Many a times doctor can refuse the living will citing medical advancements as a reason giving a person a chance of living a normal life.

Thus the top court today has set in place strict guidelines for carrying out the mandate of a "living will".

Passive euthanasia involves stopping medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten the death of a terminally ill patient. The Supreme Court has defined it so in its verdict in the Aruna Shanbaug case. Third, if a person is unconscious and has also has not expressed a will, the family and doctors can take a decision to withdraw artificial support system.

Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, had said that under Article 21 (right to life) a person had the right to die peacefully without any suffering and must be allowed to create a living will for a time when he can not recover from an illness. Also, it is important to make sure that the legal procedures connected are as friendly as possible.

On January 15, 2016, the Centre had said the 241st report of the Law Commission stated that passive euthanasia should be allowed with certain safeguards and there was also a proposed law - Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patient (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill, 2006.

"This is in contrast to care which is driven by the medical industry whose heroic interventions to extend life can cause enormous suffering to the dying person while only delaying the inevitable, also emotionally and financially exhausting families".

Meena Ganesh, MD and CEO of Portea Medical, says, "Forcing someone to remain on life-support can be very hard and the increasing costs of stay and care compound the situation".

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