Supreme Court allows 'living will' and passive euthanasia

Mar 09, 2018, 11:19 IST | PTI

SC recognises 'living will' made by terminally-ill patients for passive euthanasia

Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court said that a person can make an advance "living will" authorising the withdrawal of all life support system if in the opinion of doctor he has reached an irreversible stage of terminal illness.

While allowing a person to make a living will, a five judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, however, attached strict conditions for executing "a living will that was made by a person in his normal state of health and mind". The bench laid down guidelines on who would execute the will and how nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by the medical board.

Recognising "right to die with dignity", the court permitted a person to draft in advance a "living will" in case she/he slips into an incurable condition.  The court said the life support can be removed only after the statutory medical board declares patient to be incurable.

The bench also comprising Justice A.K.Sikri, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan said that its guidelines and directives shall remain in force till a legislation is brought to deal with the issue.

What is Passive Euthanasia?

Passive Euthanasia is the withdrawal of medical treatment and allowing the death of the terminally ill patient to occur. In sontrast active euthanasia, is where the person diesinduced by a lethal dose of drugs or other means. 

One of the harbingers of this movement was Aruna Shanbaug. The nurse from KEM hospital who was in a vegetative state since 1973 after being raped. The lady passed away in May 2015, but it was her case that led the Supreme Court to legalise euthanasia of patients in a permanent vegitative state. 

Also read: Mumbai: Aruna Shanbaug's greatest gift to India was passive euthanasia law: Pinki Virani

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