undergroundnewsroom.com March 23, 2018

Landmark ruling: Supreme Court says passive euthanasia is permissible

11 March 2018, 01:32 | Clyde Nash

SC allows passive euthanasia, upholds 'right to die with dignity'

Passive euthanasia Arguments for and against the procedure

However, on 25 February 2014, a three-judge bench of Supreme Court of India had termed the judgment in the Aruna Shanbaug case to be "inconsistent in itself" and has referred the issue of euthanasia to its five-judge Constitution bench.

In a unanimous order on Friday, March 9, a five judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra recognised "living will" and laid down guidelines for its execution.

Her plight prompted the Supreme Court to decide in 2011 that life support can be removed for some terminally ill patients in certain circumstances. This led journalist-activist Pinky Virani, who published a book regarding her case, titled Aruna's Story, to file a writ petition with the Supreme Court asking for the legalization of euthanasia so that Aruna's suffering could be terminated by withdrawing medical support.

The Supreme Court has allowed passive euthanasia in the country. People now will be allowed to grant a living power of attorney to another.

SC said that "living will" be permitted but with the permission from family members of the person who sought passive euthanasia.

In fact, the family members will have to first approach a High Court which will constitute a medical board to take a call on passive euthanasia, according to the apex court guidelines.

The apex court ruled on a plea filed by the Delhi-based Common Cause India which had, in 2005, brought up the matter of a person's right to die with dignity by creating a living will.

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"In the event the executor is incapable of taking a decision or develops impaired decision-making capacity, the consent of the guardian nominated by the executor in the advance directive should be obtained regarding refusal or withdrawal of medical treatment to the executor to the extent of and consistent with the clear instructions given in the advance directive", it said.

An advance medical directive is an individual's advance exercise of his autonomy on the subject of extent of medical intervention that he wishes to allow upon his own body at a future date, when he may not be in a position to specify his wishes.

Passive euthanasia involves stopping medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten the death of a terminally ill patient.

According to the Supreme Court rules, it can be executed only by an adult who is of a sound and healthy state of mind and in a position to communicate, relate and comprehend the goal and consequences of executing the document. The court has suggested several conditions, including a District Magistrate-appointed medical board to vet the decision of the hospital medical board that life support systems merely prolong a vegetative or painful existence without any hope of redemption.

The court had in last October taken up the plea, but then chosen to reserve its order. The Commission had also prepared a draft Bill - the medical treatment of terminally ill patients (protection of patients and medical practitioners) Bill. Active euthanasia, by administering a lethal injection, continues to be illegal in India.

"Everybody will breathe a sigh of relief, because people were earlier apprehensive that if they withdrew life support, they could be prosecuted for culpable homicide", he added.

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