Right to die with dignity: SC allows passive euthanasia with guidelines

Supreme Court

The hospital staff who had been heeding to Shanbaug, and the Bombay Municipal Corporation filed their counter-petitions, in opposition to the passive euthanasia appeal.

May 11, 2005: SC takes note of PIL of NGO "Common Cause" seeking nod to allow terminally-ill persons to execute a living will for passive euthanasia.

A five judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court said passive euthanasia is permissible; the court has framed detailed guidelines using its extraordinary power. The Bench comprising Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh while citing the judgment in Gian Kaur v. Suffering from the muscular disorder for more than 18 years, his tryst with struggle to end his life on own terms prompted his mother to fight a lengthy battle to allow Euthanasia in the country.

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.

What is a 'Living Will?' The Board will visit the patient and give its view on the opinion of the first medical board. For many the living will preserves personal control and eases the decision-making burden of a family.

Chief Justice Misra said the fundamental question that puzzled the court was "whether the Hippocratic oath should prevent us from entering the dark tunnel of death with dignity".

The Supreme Court has also approved the right to refuse medical treatment and the concept of a "living will".

Graphics Text RNA
Graphics Text RNA

Though it ultimately refused to do so in 2011, it did pass a landmark judgment back then that opened the door for passive euthanasia in the rarest of rare cases. "With the passage of time, this court has expanded the spectrum of Article 21 to include within it the right to live with dignity as the component of the right to life and liberty", the judgement authored by the CJI on behalf of him and Justice A M Khanwilkar said.

The Centre had also told the Constitution Bench that a draft bill permitting passive euthanasia with necessary safeguards was already before it for consideration. "We must say thanks to her", she told PTI in Mumbai.

On the other hand, Anamika Mishra, a patient of Muscular Dystrophy, is happy with the apex court's decision. In active euthanasia, a patient is put to death through a lethal injection.

An adult human being of conscious mind is fully entitled to refuse medical treatment or to decide not to take medical treatment and may decide to embrace the death in natural way.
India with its historic judgment joined the likes of South Africa and Japan to allow Passive Euthanasia. Euthanasia is also commonly called "assisted suicide" due to the above reasons.

This is unedited, unformatted feed from the Press Trust of India wire.

If the hospital medical board opines on executing the advance directive, another medical board will be set up, which may endorse the its execution if it concurs with the initial decision of the medical board of the hospital.

The bench said if the doctor was satisfied that instructions given in the document needed to be acted upon, he should inform the executor or his guardian or a close relative about the nature of illness, availability of medical care and consequences of alternative forms of treatment.

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