Published: Fri, March 09, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

Prashant Bhushan hails SC verdict on passive euthanasia

Prashant Bhushan hails SC verdict on passive euthanasia

In a landmark verdict the Supreme Court allowed passive euthanasia while setting down guidelines.

According to them, the Right to life includes right to die with dignity. A "living will" is a document prepared by a person in a healthy state of mind specifying that if s/he slides into a vegetative state because of an irreversible terminal illness, the debilitated existence should not be prolonged with the help of life support systems or other medical interventions. The top court thus turned down Pinki Virani's plea on March 7, 2011, but it allowed "passive euthanasia" of withdrawing life support to patients who are in permanently vegetative state (PVS).

Passive Euthanasia is the withdrawal of medical treatment with deliberate intention to quicken a terminally ill patient's death.

The order was passed by a five-judge Constitution bench of Chief Justice (CJI) Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan.

Meanwhile, the government had said previous year that it had prepared a draft bill to allow passive euthanasia. The Supreme Court has previous year found merit in the concept of "living will", also termed as "advance medical directive", paving the way for further discussion.

"Any individual has the right to decide that he should not take any kind of medical treatment or that he should not be kept alive by any artificial life support systems", Prashant Bhushan, one of the petitioners, told reporters after the hearing.

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A five-judge constitution bench, which recognised that a terminally-ill patient or a person in PVS can execute an "advance medical directive" to refuse medical treatment, spelt out the safeguards saying such a directive "cannot operate in abstraction".

Pronouncing the judgment, a Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra laid down guidelines governing execution and enforcement of living wills and the procedure to be followed for passive euthanasia.

It allows a patient to give explicit instructions in advance about the medical treatment to be administered when he or she is terminally ill or no longer able to express informed consent.

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.

In the event of difference of opinion, the patient's nominee, his family member, treating doctor or hospital staff can move the high court for permission to withdraw life support, it said.

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