Long-awaited SC verdict on living will has cleared the air: Lawyers


The Friday judgment of the five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will be in operation till Parliament enacts a suitable law.

Passive euthanasia is when death is brought about by an omission, broadly by withdrawing of medical treatment and life support systems in terminally ill patients who can't express their consent.

The five-member bench, comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, began hearing the petition a year ago.

Atthe end, on March9th2018 Supreme Court legalized that if there is a "living" will made by terminally ill patients for passive euthanasia it can be executed following certain strict guidelines adopted to that effect.

The petitioner through counsel Prashant Bhushan had sought suitable procedures to ensure that terminally ill patient or those in persistent vegetative state are not deprived of their rights to refuse cruel and unwanted medical treatment like feeding through hydration tubes, or being kept on ventilator and other life support machines in order to artificially prolong their natural life span. Apart from the landmark ruling passed, the court also permitted a person to draft a living will specifying that he should not be given life support treatment if he slips into incurable coma state in future.

In Jaipur, Jain muni Tarun Sagar has welcomed the Supreme Court's verdict to allow passive euthanasia which was in consonance with the tenets of Jainism. People now will be allowed to grant a living power of attorney to another.

However, before we understand what the judgment implies for the common man, it is imperative to understand the concept of passive euthanasia and living will.

"Passive euthanasia" can include turning off life-support machines, not administering life-extending drugs or not performing life-extending operations.

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By the landmark verdict, The Supreme Court of India has declared "passive euthanasia" legal on March9th2018 including the "right to die" under the fundamental right of right to dignity.

The "advance directives" can be issued and executed by "next friend and relatives" of terminally ill people but a medical board to take a final call.

The bench said if the board certified that the advance directive should be carried out, the hospital should forthwith inform the collector who would set up another medical board. Active Euthanasia is considered the aggressive form of Euthanasia as it is directly involved with the killing.

What is Passive euthanasia?

Passive euthanasia involves stopping medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten the death of a terminally ill patient. The Judges on the bench were nearly unanimous and in sync with the milestone verdict they passed and provided vocal support to the cause of the terminally ill people who they believe complete a glorious life only if they meet a non-volatile end.

Let us now take a look at some of the prominent cases in India that has raged the debate around Euthanasia.

"The right of an individual to refuse medical treatment is unconditional".

"This is in contrast to care which is driven by the medical industry whose heroic interventions to extend life can cause vast suffering to the dying person while only delaying the inevitable, also emotionally and financially exhausting families".