Friday, 22 June, 2018

India allows 'living wills' for terminally ill

According to the apex court passive euthanasia is permissible with guidelines. SC said 'Human beings have the right to die with dignity.' SC allows passive euthanasia, upholds 'right to die with dignity'
Gerardo Duncan | 11 March, 2018, 01:58

The Supreme Court on Friday relied upon the constitutional values of liberty, dignity, autonomy and privacy to allow passive euthanasia and advance medical directives, saying both bore a close association to the human urge to live with dignity.

A "living will" is made by a person, in his normal state of mind, seeking voluntary euthanasia in case of terminal illness, if he or she reaches an irreversible vegetative state.

In asserting the right to die with dignity and giving legal sanction to passive euthanasia and living wills, Supreme Court has reiterated the individual's sovereignty over the body.

"The directive and guidelines shall remain in force till Parliament brings a legislation in the field", CJI Misra, writing the judgment for himself and Justice A M Khanwilkar, said.

After nearly two years of that, on February 15th, 2016 thecentreopined that it is a deliberate issue and the five judges bench led by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra heard the argument and reversed the previous verdict. With all due respect, the Supreme Court can not just make a judgment regarding euthanasia. The right to live should logically encompass the right to stop living - the right to eat does not prevent a man from doing something else in life apart from eating, or the right to sleep does not mean that he can only sleep in exercise of his right.

She added, "Even though we do not have any terminal illness, the fact remains that we have lead a good and satisfactory life and we thoroughly believe that there is nothing more we wish to do". It is a concept associated with passive euthanasia.

"In the event the executor is incapable of taking a decision or develops impaired decision-making capacity, the consent of the guardian nominated by the executor in the advance directive should be obtained regarding refusal or withdrawal of medical treatment to the executor to the extent of and consistent with the clear instructions given in the advance directive", it said.

What is the government view on passive euthanasia?

"Today's is a landmark judgement because it comes at a time when medical science allows patients to be kept alive by artificial means and the hospitals to keep charging money", Vipul Mudgal, the head of main petitioner Common Cause, an advocacy group, told the BBC. "We can not take a life but it should also be remembered that every human has a right to live and die healthy", says the head nurse at KEM.

Let us now take a look at some of the prominent cases in India that has raged the debate around Euthanasia. "The safeguards that the court has built in should allay fears that some people may have", he said.

Passive euthanasia is a condition where there is a withdrawal of the medical treatment to expedite death of a terminally ill patient.

The verdict, which also put in place some strict guidelines, was also welcomed by human rights activist Pinki Virani, who had sought mercy killing for Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse who was in a vegetative state for 42 years after being brutally raped by a wardboy before she died in 2015. "But I suspect that some of the procedures built into the implementation of advanced medical directives may be too cumbersome to be understood by the people who need them".

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