Ahmedabad: The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday passed an order to allow passive euthanasia on grounds that it will only be permitted under strict guidelines so as to protect one’s right to die. An individual may write a living will in which it will be mentioned if they want their life to be prolonged by putting them on artificial support system or not. Passive euthanasia is a state when a patient dies because the medical professionals either cannot do something to keep the patient alive or when they stop doing something that is needed to keep the patient alive.
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. The apex court's order came on a plea by the NGO 'Common Cause’. Though they had difference in opinion they all agreed on having a ‘living will’ and that one must not be made to suffer in a vegetative state against their will.
The court has set strict guidelines for carrying out the process of a 'living will' in which it will be specified who is authorised do it. The court also talked of involving a medical board to determine whether the patient in a vegetative state could be revived or not. The SC is well aware of the problems regarding 'living wills' coming into effect, considering the property disputes relatives have. Therefore, the SC said that the relatives of a patient without a 'living will' can approach high court asking for passive euthanasia.
The NGO had approached the court seeking for a direction in the matter of a 'living will' and argued that when a medical expert says that a person afflicted with terminal disease had reached a point of no return they should be given the right to refuse being put on life support.“How can a person be told that he/she does not have right to prevent torture on his body? Right to life includes right to die with dignity. A person cannot be forced to live on support of ventilator. Keeping a patient alive by artificial means against his/her wishes is an assault on his/her body," the petition said.
As per the Union government it had in principle agreed to decriminalise attempt to suicide, which at present is a punishable offence by up to one year jail term under Section 309 of Indian Penal Code.