New Delhi: Upholding the right to die with dignity, the Supreme Court in a landmark ruling on Friday gave legal sanction to passive euthanasia, permitting a person to draft a living will.
What is Living Will?
Living will is a written document that 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.
The apex court, however, had observed that there should be adequate safeguards and implementation of living will would be subject to medical board's certifying that the patient's comatose state is irreversible.
What is Passive Euthanasia?
Passive euthanasia is a condition where there is withdrawal of medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten the death of a terminally-ill patient.
How did the court ruling come by?
The court’s ruling was pronounced on a 2005 plea filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan on behalf of NGO Common Cause that sought recognition of a living will so that an individual could exercise the right to refuse medical treatment at a terminally ill stage of life.
The NGO, had argued that when a medical expert is of the opinion that a person afflicted with a terminal disease has reached a point of no return, he should be given the right to refuse 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.
On January, 15, 2016, the Centre had said the 241st report of the Law Commission stated that passive euthanasia should be allowed with certain safeguards and there was also a proposed law --Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patient (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill, 2006.
It had said that on specific occasions, the question of withdrawing supporting devices to sustain cardio-pulmonary function even after brain death, shall be decided only by a doctors' team and not by the treating physician alone.
Previous rulings in this case
The top court had in 2011 recognised passive euthanasia in Aruna Shanbaug's case by which it had permitted withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from patients not in a position to make an informed decision.
The Centre had opposed recognition of 'living will' and said the consent for removal of artificial support system given by a patient may not be an informed one and without being aware of medical advancements.
It had cited examples of various countries in disallowing creation of living will by patients.