India's Top Court Legalizes Passive Euthanasia, Living Will

India's Top Court Legalizes Passive Euthanasia, Living Will

India's Top Court Legalizes Passive Euthanasia, Living Will

The bench said that passive euthanasia is permissible with guidelines.

In a historic decision taken on 9th March 2018, Friday, the Supreme Court had decided on right to die with dignity and said that persons with teminal illness can make "living will" for passive euthanasia.

The decision, given by the Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, said, "The right to live with dignity (a component of right to life and liberty under Article 21) also includes the smoothening of the process of dying in case of a terminally-ill patient or a person in PVS with no hope of recovery".

A "living will" is made by a person, in his normal state of mind, seeking voluntary euthanasia in case of terminal illness, if he or she reaches an irreversible vegetative state. The 538-page judgement was delivered on a PIL by NGO Common Cause seeking recognition of "living will" made by terminally ill patients for passive euthanasia. The living will is defined as the person's right to issue a pre directive where in which he or she allows the withdrawal of life support or discontinuation of medicine if a situation arises in future of person being in a terminally ill state.

However, before we understand what the judgment implies for the common man, it is imperative to understand the concept of passive euthanasia and living will.

The top court also held that when passive euthanasia as a "situational palliative measure becomes applicable", the best interest of the patient shall override the state interest.

Nidhi Mishra, founder of Senior Express, an initiative to promote active and productive ageing, said that while there was a right to live and die with dignity, it was important to ensure that the SC ruling does not get misused.

The apex court said that advance directives for terminally-ill patients could be issued and executed by the next friend and relatives of such person after which a medical board would consider it. The Indian Supreme Court has ruled that terminally ill patients have the right to refuse care to hasten their death.

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Ms Virani said, "This law has been valid since 2011 and the Supreme Court upheld it today".

He said, "Till now advanced medical directives did not have legal validity in our country". The Supreme Court has defined it so in its verdict in the Aruna Shanbaug case.

The court said life support can be removed only after the statutory medical board declares the patient to be incurable.

Euthanasia is of two kinds - active and passive.

The court had in last October taken up the plea, but then chosen to reserve its order. The ruling also added that a team of doctors will also be brought to check the condition of the patient and the euthanasia will be allowed only if the person's revival will be practically impossible.

The bench observed that "dignity" was the core which united fundamental rights because fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution sought to achieve for each individual the dignity of existence. "Physicians' choices differed from the patients' stated ADs in 65 percent of cases, suggesting that they viewed the AD as only part of the information needed to make treatment decisions", he said. Active euthanasia, by administering a lethal injection, continues to be illegal in India.

The court also spelt the guidelines to be followed in cases where there would be no advance directive, saying that such persons can not be "alienated".

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