India's top court upholds passive euthanasia with guidelines

The court is expected to chalk out the scope of the right to die with dignity of a terminally ill patient and lay down the way in which it may be exercised as a fundamental right under the Constitution

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said passive euthanasia and advance living will are "permissible".

Justice AK Sikri said that even though religion, law, philosophy, morality, and society share conflicting opinions on the Fundamental Right to Life and if it includes the right to die as well, they all concur that a person should be able to die with dignity, reported The Hindu.

The court also permitted individuals to decide against artificial life support, should the need arise, by creating a "living will".

"A terrible, painful death on a rational but incapacitated terminally ill patient are an affront to human dignity".

The Commission had also prepared a draft Bill - the medical treatment of terminally ill patients (protection of patients and medical practitioners) Bill. February 15, 2016: Centre claims deliberating the issue of passive euthanasia.

If the collector's board refuses permission, the family or friends can move the high court which will examine the case with the help of an independent medical board before taking a call.

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However, the court stated that a strict set of guidelines should be framed to ensure that the clause of "living will" is not misused.

Speaking about this, Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, "Just as every person has the right to life, he/she also has the right to die with dignity". A person who is terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state can make a "choice" to prematurely extinguish his life, the bench said.

This ruling comes after Mumbai nurse Aruna Shanbaug passed away in 2015 after 42 years in hospital in a vegetative state after being sexually assaulted and strangled. With all due respect, the Supreme Court can not just make a judgment regarding euthanasia.

In stark contrast to passive euthanasia is active euthanasia. In short, passive euthanasia is causing the death of the patient through indirect means. This means that a terminally-ill patient is administered a lethal drug or substance intentionally in order for them to pass away peacefully, in this case, in the event of terminal illness. Whereas in passive euthanasia, either the medical professionals don't do something necessary to keep the patient alive or they stop making efforts that keep the patient alive.

The 2011 judgement had put the onus on doctors to petition to withdraw life support, under the supervision of the courts. It has also given sanction to 'Passive Euthanasia' and 'Living Will' and thereby issued guidelines in this regard.

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