Published: Fri, March 09, 2018
Sci-tech | By Brandy Patterson

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

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

The court observed that right to die with dignity is a fundamental right.

"How can a person be told that he / she does not have right to prevent torture on his body?" Right to life includes right to die with dignity. A living will becomes effective only when a person can not communicate his, her desires on own.

However, the top court made it clear that the "living will" would be permitted only after due permission from family members or a very close friend of a terminally ill person who sought passive euthanasia in his normal state of mind.

The draft Bill was released by the Health Ministry in 2016, based on a 2012 Law Commission of India report. February 25, 2014: SC cited inconsistencies in earlier verdicts on passive euthanasia, including the one given in the Aruna Shanbaug case and referred the PIL to a Constitution bench.

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What is a "living will"? The petition by Common Cause is on the lines of the US Patient Self Determination Act.

Living will, or euthanasia, is permitted in varying forms in Belgium, Canada, and Sweden.

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.

With the latest decision, India joins a growing list of countries including Britain, France, Germany and Spain that recognise living wills.

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The Supreme court, in what is a being considered a landmark decision, passed a judgement that would make it possible for people to opt for Passive Euthanasia, but with some guidelines that would have to be followed to achieve it.

In 2015, the death of a 66-year-old nurse Aruna Shanbaug, who was sexually assaulted and left in a vegetative state for more than 40 years, had sparked a national debate over the legalisation of euthanasia. "Passive euthanasia can be granted when the patient is declared brain dead and no chance of revival exists". However, when the medical professionals let the patient die by not doing something that can prolong his life or stop doing something that is prolonging the patient's life such as putting him off life support, it's passive euthanasia.

Passive euthanasia will be applicable to only a terminally ill person with no hope for recovery, the court said. Dr Aggarwal said that such ADs can also be revoked orally or in writing by the patient at any time so long as he or she has maintained decisional capacity. With the new order in place, now, a person under medical treatment can decide when to give-up life support.

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