Published: Sat, March 10, 2018
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Supreme Court (SC) permits passive euthanasia

Supreme Court (SC) permits passive euthanasia

Patients, who had appealed to the court for achieving euthanasia have also commended the decision, saying that they can die with dignity and in peace rather than facing a lifetime of suffering.

However, on 25 February 2014, a three-judge bench of Supreme Court of India had termed the judgment in the Aruna Shanbaug case to be "inconsistent in itself" and has referred the issue of euthanasia to its five-judge Constitution bench. The apex court also laid down guidelines for "living will" made by terminally-ill patients who beforehand know about their chances of slipping into a permanent vegetative state. The bench stated that humans have the righ to die with dignity.

As per definition, it's a direction issued by a terminally ill patient that "he or she... shall or shall not be given medical treatment in future when or he she becomes terminally ill".

Minakshi Biswas, research scholar and expert on euthanasia, said however that there are many factors to be considered before allowing passive euthanasia.

This case would typically fall under the passive euthanasia category.

It also includes authorising a family to switch off life support in case a medical board declared that a patient is beyond medical help.

The SC said it was aware of the pitfalls in giving effect to "living wills", considering the property disputes relatives have.

It seeks to allow a patient faced with terminal illness not to sustain life through medical treatment in the form of artificial support system.

"At that time the Supreme Court said they will look at this whole passive euthanasia thing again, which they have, and they have upheld their own judgement", said activist and author Pinki Virani.

Anumeha Jha, senior research analyst for the NGO, said that in 2016, the government's medical Bill addressed passive euthanasia as it was after Aruna Shanbaug's case.

"Allowing passive euthanasia in developed countries is probably feasible, but welcoming even passive euthanasia in countries like India is very hard", Biswas, a humanities professor at GD Goenka University in New Delhi, said.

But this can be done only after permission from all family members and a medical board created to look into the case is received.

Thus, the law of the land as existing today is that no one is permitted to cause death of another person including a physician by administering any lethal drug even if the objective is to relieve the patient from pain and suffering.
"Most patients in public hospitals support the decision not to use life-support systems when we explain the prognosis".

The bench said that passive euthanasia is permissible with guidelines.

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