SC holds passive Euthansia as valid

Team SoOLEGAL 10 Mar 2018 6:14pm

SC holds passive Euthansia as valid

New Delhi :In a landmark judgment, the SC constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices  A.K. Sikri, Justice Chandrachud,Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice Ashok Bhushan declared passive euthanasia and the right of persons, including the terminally ill, to give advance directives to refuse medical treatment as legally valid.

The justices in their different but concurring opinions, upheld that the 'right to die with dignity is an intrinsic  facet of right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution'.

According to the verdict any person of sound mind and health can make a "living will" as per which a person can state that in the event of him/her suffering from terminal illness in future his/her life should not be lengthened by artificial life support system.

Chief Justice Misra spoke about how societal pressure and fear of criminal liability by relatives and medical doctors ultimately led to the suffering and the undignified death of the patient .Doctors attending terminally ill patients are scared of legal issues and continue treatment even when there is no meaningful improvement in the patients condition.

ChIef Justice Misra, in a common judgment with Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, said it was time to "alleviate the agony of an individual" and stand by his right to a dignified passing. A dignified death should follow a meaningful existence, the five-judge Bench agreed in a unanimous voice.

Justice A.K. Sikri, in his separate opinion, said though religion, morality, philosophy, law and society shared equally strong and conflicting opinions about whether right to life included right to death, they all agreed that a person should die with dignity.

Justice Sikri said an advance directive or living will from a patient to stop medical treatment at a particular stage — "particularly when he is brain dead or clinically dead or not revivable" — quelled apprehensions of future regret for relatives and criminal action against doctors.

The judgment however provides for specific guidelines to test the validity of a living will, by whom it should be certified, when and how it should come into effect, etc. The guidelines also cover a situation where there is no living will and how to approach a plea for passive euthanasia.

In a separate opinion, Justice Chandrachud observed that modern medical science should balance its quest to prolong life with need to provide patients quality of life. One was meaningless without the other.The issue of death and when to die transcended the boundaries of law, but the court had intervened because it also concerned the liberty and autonomy of the individual."Free will includes the right of a person to refuse medical treatment," he said.

A person need not give any reasons nor is he answerable to any authority on why he should write an advanced directive.

But the judge held that active euthanasia is unlawful.

For this reason, he said the reasons given by a two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in the Aruna Shanbaug case, allowing passive euthanasia, were "flawed" as the convoluted procedure to get a go-ahead for passive euthanasia made the dignity of a dying person dependent on the whims and will of third parties.

Tagged: Euthansia   Active Euthansia   Passive Euthansia   SC   Right to die with dignity  
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