India's top court upholds passive euthanasia with guidelines, says chief justice

Passive euthanasia Arguments for and against the procedure

As reported by Outlook India, a five-judge constitution board headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, laid down the guidelines for the execution of the will and how the medical board would approve passive Euthanasia.

The five judges had written four separate judgments expressing their views, but concurred on allowing passive euthanasia and advance directives.

An Advance Directive (Living Will) allows people to decide in advance whether or not they want to be put on life support in cases of terminal illness.

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court today allowed the "living will" made by terminally-ill patients for passive euthanasia. The Supreme Court has previous year found merit in the concept of "living will", also termed as "advance medical directive", paving the way for further discussion.

It is a type of advance directive that may be used by a person before incapacitation to outline a full range of treatment preferences or, most often, to reject treatment.

Indians receive treatment in the general ward of the orthopedic department of the Swaroop Rani Medical college hospital in, Allahabad, India, February 1, 2018. State of Punjab had held both euthanasia and assisted suicide not lawful in India.

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The CJI pointed out that a certificate from a statutory medical board that a patient's condition was beyond cure and irreversible would take care of apprehensions of relatives and doctors about withdrawing life support and when it should be done. "On the contrary, it gives an indication that in such situations, it is the acceleration of the process of dying which may constitute a part of right to life with dignity so that the period of suffering is reduced", Friday's judgment said. Approving the will to die, the Apex Court said that the dignity in death is a facet of right to life.

Passive euthanasia will be applicable to only a terminally ill person with no hope for recovery, the court said.

The decision was in response to a petition by a non-government organisation, which argued that a person with terminal illness should be given the right to refuse being placed on life support.

The Centre had also told the Constitution Bench that a draft bill permitting passive euthanasia with necessary safeguards was already before it for consideration.

Hence, the court, Justice Sikri said, is rightly in favour of the right to die with dignity. It added that it would also allow living will for passive euthanasia. In such a case, relatives will be spared the agonising decision of removing life support and doctors will be guided exclusively by the "living will". Previously, all forms of euthanasia were illegal.

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