Published: Sun, March 11, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

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

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

The new rules also permit individuals to draft a "living will" specifying they not be put on life support if they slip into an incurable coma.

The Supreme Court judgment on Friday, allowing a person suffering from terminal illness to refuse medical treatment to avoid "protracted physical suffering" drove a wedge between the scientific and religious domains. Living wills authorise doctors and relatives to exercise passive euthanasia and withdraw life support in the event of terminal illness or slide into a vegetative state or irreversible coma.

Euthanasia has multiple and complex legal, ethical, and emotional ramifications.

What is Passive euthanasia?

The other three judges of the bench - Justices A K Sikri, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan - penned separate concurring verdicts in the combined judgment running into 538 pages. "We don't regret that decision as we lived a healthy life", she said. "For some, even their death could be a moment of celebration".

The judgment led to a flurry of reactions across India.

"Human beings have the right to die with dignity", said the apex court after allowing passive euthanasia. "The living will is just an instrument that gives the patient autonomy over his life or death". During the assault, she was tied with a dog chain around her neck, which cut off oxygen supply to her brain and left her in a permanently vegetative state.From that day Aruna could survive only on mashed food.

This last wish can be executed only by an adult in sound state of mind and who is in a position to communicate and comprehend the consequences of executing such a direction.

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Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, said since a patient in a coma can not express his or her wishes, the law should allow him or her to put down in writing in advance that he or she should not be tortured.

Meena Ganesh, MD and CEO of Portea Medical, says, "Forcing someone to remain on life-support can be very hard and the increasing costs of stay and care compound the situation". He was seen on the TV lauding the verdict as a "historical ruling" and said, "The whole world takes birth crying, but Mahavira taught us to die laughing".

In India, passive euthanasia was termed legal under exceptional circumstances.

Aruna Shanbaug, 25, was a nurse in the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai when she was assaulted on November 27, 1973 by a sweeper. Meantime, a non-government organisation approached the top court with a plea to also legalise the right to a living will. The issue is not considered politically contentious in India.

She said, "I had requested for mercy killing in 2014 and PM Modi took cognizance of the same & had told local officers to look into the matter".

Supreme Court's constitution bench of five judges has ruled that passive euthanasia and legalised living will be permissible in India.

"Life sans dignity is an unacceptable defeat and life that meets death with dignity is a value to be aspired for and a moment for celebration", the five-judge bench, headed by India's chief justice, said in its order. "Everyone deserves to die peacefully", Anumeha said.

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