Supreme Court (SC) permits passive euthanasia

Patient at hospital

SC allows passive euthanasia. Public Domain

But, seeking active Euthanasia requires permission from the law as it is illegal.

May 11, 2005: SC takes note of PIL of NGO "Common Cause" seeking nod to allow terminally-ill persons to execute a living will for passive euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is legal in some countries.

In case, you are wondering, there is a huge difference between passive and active Euthanasia.

The verdict was delivered by a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Mishra, Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Ashok Bhushanin.

Quoting the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda on life and death, Justice Misra said Vivekananda expects one to understand that life is the lamp that is constantly burning out and suggests that if one wants to have life, one has to die every moment for it.

He said the only constant is change, the slow process of dying as we live. The trusted person can decide on the patient's behalf how long the medical treatment should continue when the patient in unconscious or in a coma state is not in a position to decide.

Though the government took the lead in decriminalising suicide and is ready with a draft legislation formalising passive euthanasia, it struck a contradictory note in opposing living wills, essentially a person's desire to exit from life at a point of no return.

The top court also held that when passive euthanasia as a "situational palliative measure becomes applicable", the best interest of the patient shall override the state interest.

Aruna's brain was severely injured in the attack, leaving her in a partially conscious and permanently vegetative state.

As a safeguard measure, the court further stated that if a person is not of sound mind and not competent to make a living will, a medical board would decide for the individual. "The initial case was on living will, which the Supreme Court disposed of on February 25, 2014", she says.

"Everybody will breathe a sigh of relief, because people were earlier apprehensive that if they withdrew life support, they could be prosecuted for culpable homicide", he added. "Not only is it a torture for the person and the family, but also increases the cost of stay at the hospitalThus this decision needs to be applauded". Also, it is important to make sure that the legal procedures connected are as friendly as possible. Shanbaug, a nurse, had been left in a vegetative state after being brutally raped and strangled in 1973 at the Mumbai hospital she worked at.

In March 2011, the court rejected the plea for Shanbaug since the Centre opposed the recognition of living will.

In a landmark ruling, The Supreme Court on Friday allowed passive euthanasia, or withholding treatment essential to life for a terminally-ill patient.

Petitioners have argued that "right to life" includes the "right to die", a clause rejected by the Supreme Court in the Gian Kaur verdict where it maintained that "there is no 'right to die" under Article 21 of the constitution. The doctors in most cases will have to consider a case as that of terminally ill nature hence the living will concept needs to be implemented with the active support of the doctors.

"To deprive an individual of dignity at the end of life is to deprive him of meaningful existence", the Bench said.

Latest News