Friday, 17 August, 2018

Right To Die With Dignity - Passive Euthanasia Permissible With Guidelines - Says SC

SC allows passive euthanasia, upholds 'right to die with dignity' Passive euthanasia is now legal: Supreme Court permits 'living will' for terminally ill patients
Jay Anderson | 11 March, 2018, 03:00

In a landmark judgment, India's Supreme Court on Friday ruled that "right to die with dignity" is a fundamental right, legalizing passive euthanasia and living wills.

Relatives of patients normally seek mercy killing when they are unable to see their near ones suffering or lying in a vegetative state or do not have the financial support needed for treatment and also when they do not see a come back for terminally ill patients.

"The court should have allowed active euthanasia as well for people like us who have lived lives to their fullest and are seeking to go in peace", he said.

India's chief justice Dipak Misra said that the guidelines set out by the court "will prevail until the government comes out with legislation". With all due respect, the Supreme Court can not just make a judgment regarding euthanasia.

"In India, you must guard against people terminating the life of another person for properties and other things".

Noted senior lawyers like Arvind Datar, Colin Gonsalves and advocate Prashant Bhushan said the judgement has "cleared the air" on passive euthanasia which was "long-overdue".

"Free will includes the right of a person to refuse medical treatment", he said. It is legal in handful of countries namely-Switzerland, Netherland, Canada, certain states in the USA.




"To decrease the misuse the court has said that making of living will be allowed only after getting certification from a medical authority that the patient's comatose state is irreversible", Rohan added.

The CJI said though there was no legal framework in India as regards to the advance medical directive, the apex court was obliged to protect the right of the citizens enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Vikram Patel, professor, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said Supreme Court's observation that human beings have the right to die with dignity, and that this extended to their right to give advanced directives, or a living will, to dictate their desires on end-of-life care, is entirely in keeping with the principles of person-centred care. The Supreme Court has laid out the framework for a "living will" and also prescribed the procedure for partial euthanasia which needs to be welcomed.

Passive euthanasia is a condition where there is a withdrawal of the medical treatment to expedite death of a terminally ill patient. "SC has taken a good decision, we've hope now". The person authorising passive euthanasia has to sign the document in the presence of two witnesses, preferably independent; it has to be countersigned by a Judicial Magistrate of First Class (JMFC), who shall preserve one copy in his office besides sending it to the registry of the district judge to retain it in digital format.

Dr K K Aggarwal, vice -pesident of Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania, and former IMA president, however, said strict guidelines should be put in place to ensure that there is no abuse of the "living will" by relatives of the terminally ill patient.

In the absence of a law authorizing doctors to invoke an advance directive, they keep incurable patients on life support, he said.

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