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

11 March, 2018, 01:58 | Author: Bert Pena
  • Passive euthanasia Know all about a 'living will'

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. 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. The PIL filed by the NGO wanted "Right to Die" as a Fundamental Right under Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution of India.

The CJI, while reading out the judgment, said that though there were four separate opinions of the bench but all the judges were unanimous that the "living will" should be permitted since a person can not be allowed to continue suffering in a comatose state when he or she doesn't wish to live. Active euthanasia, by administering a lethal injection, continues to be illegal in India.

He said, "Till now advanced medical directives did not have legal validity in our country". It is a concept associated with passive euthanasia.

"Active euthanasia" involves helping a person die on his or her request "through direct action". This may include stopping the life support or the cease of life saving procedures that help to increase the life span of an individual with no permanent cure.

Virani said she was deeply grateful to the Supreme Court for its verdict.

The court also spelt the guidelines to be followed in cases where there would be no advance directive, saying that such persons can not be "alienated".

Nidhi Mishra, founder of Senior Express, an initiative to promote active and productive ageing, said that while there was a right to live and die with dignity, it was important to ensure that the SC ruling does not get misused.

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Aruna Shanbaug: The KEM nurse who was strangulated and sodomised by a sweeper in 1973 leading to her spending the rest of her life in vegetative state drew a wide spread attention. So the judgment takes care of that as well.

"No one has the right to put an end to human life". 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.

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

With the advancement in medical technology and the fact that medical directive achieved lawful recognition in the US, Australia, Canada and other jurisdictions, the Bench felt that it was time for India to recognise this right as part of a citizen's right of self-determination, dignity, autonomy and privacy as well by choosing not to suffer a painful death.

"The right of life is in the hands of God".

Jan 23, 2014: A three-judge bench led by then CJI P Sathasivam starts final hearing in the case.

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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