SC Allows Passive Euthanasia, Says Human Beings Have The Right To Die With Dignity

| March 9 , 2018 , 12:22 IST

The Supreme Court on Friday announced its verdict permitting passive euthanasia with guidelines as a 5-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra heard a plea seeking recognition of a 'living will' made by terminally ill patients for passive euthanasia.

"Human beings have the right to die with dignity," said the Supreme Court, while pronouncing the landmark judgement.

The bench, which also comprised of justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, in the hearing, said that the execution of 'living will' and passive euthanasia as a right to die peacefully is a part of the fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Passive euthanasia is a condition when a medical treatment is deliberately withdrawn to a terminally ill patient with the intention of hastening the death of the said patient. In allowing the process, the Supreme Court stipulated that a medical team should fully investigate the concerned case before coming to the conclusion that the health of the patient would only worsen further.

In comparison, a living will is a written document in which the patient can give explicit instructions in advance about future medical treatment and the process to be followed in terminal or ventilator situations.

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Although the Centre had opposed recognition of 'living will' debating the knowledge and awareness of a given patient of possible future medical advancements, it cited a previous law that would allow passive euthanasia with certain safeguards, namely the Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patient (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill, 2006.

In 2011, the Supreme Court had agreed to passive euthanasia in the case of Aruna Shanbaug who had spent 42 years in a comatose vegetative state, withdrawing life-sustaining treatment.

The topic of euthanasia is highly contested at a global level, with very few nations allowing the concept of active euthanasia, known as 'doctor-assisted suicide'.