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In India, terminally ill now have the right to die with dignity

11 March 2018, 01:32 | Hattie Nash

Passive euthanasia is now legal: Supreme Court permits 'living will' for terminally ill patients

SC allows passive euthanasia, upholds 'right to die with dignity'

In one of the historical judgements passed by the Supreme Court, a bench of five-judges on Friday passed a judgment making passive Euthanasia permissible but with proper guidelines.

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court has ruled that individuals have the right to die with dignity, and has allowed passive euthanasia with guidelines. However, the verdict has put a rider on the "living will" for being permitted with legally valid permission from the family members of the person seeking passive euthanasia and decision by a team of expert doctors that the said person as a patient could not be revived.

It is a fundamental right for the terminally ill or people with no hope of recovery to "die with dignity", India's Supreme Court said on March 9 in a landmark ruling to allow passive euthanasia - the withdrawal of medical treatment or life support with the intention of allowing an individual to die.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner NGO Common Cause, had argued that safeguards were needed while taking a decision by medical boards to withdraw life support of a patient. Second is the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPAHC) or Health Care Proxy and third is the Living Will (LW).

April 28: Law Commission suggests a draft bill on passive euthanasia and says such pleas be made to HCs which should decide after taking experts' views. Euthanasia can be active or passive in form and depending in the legal framework of a state, euthanasia is carried out in active or passive manner.

The apex court ruled on a plea filed by the Delhi-based Common Cause India which had, in 2005, brought up the matter of a person's right to die with dignity by creating a living will.

In the historic decision, the top court said right to lead a healthy life also includes "leaving the world in a peaceful and dignified manner" and an adult "has right to refuse medical treatment including withdrawal from life saving devices".

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The issue of death and when to die transcended the boundaries of law, but the court had intervened because it also concerned the liberty and autonomy of the individual, he said. Australia has a system of "advance directive" to allow citizens to decide how they would like to be treated in future, if they are incompetent to make a decision at that point.

The apex court had, in 2011, first recognised passive euthanasia in the Aruna Shanbaug case. The Supreme Court has defined it so in its verdict in the Aruna Shanbaug case. 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.

The hospital staff who had been heeding to Shanbaug, and the Bombay Municipal Corporation filed their counter-petitions, in opposition to the passive euthanasia appeal.

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

On January, 15, 2016, the government had said the 241st report of the Law Commission stated that passive euthanasia should be allowed with certain safeguards. If there are more than one valid advance directives, the latest one signed by the person will be considered as his last wish.

Active euthanasia by delivering a lethal injection is still illegal in India.

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