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Supreme Court allows passive euthanasia, issues guidelines - (09 Mar 2018)


The Supreme Court while holding that right to live with dignity is a fundamental right has allowed passive euthanasia for terminally-ill patients. The landmark ruling is given by five-member Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India. Supreme Court in a historic judgment held that, right to life and liberty as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution of India is meaningless unless it encompasses within its sphere individual dignity. Supreme Court recognized that, fundamental right includes right to die with dignity.

An adult person can make an advance ‘living will’ authorising the withdrawal of life-support system. The spectrum of Article 21 of Constitution has been widened to include within it the right to live with dignity as component of right to life and liberty. The right to live with dignity also includes the smoothening of the process of dying in case of a terminally ill patient or a person in PVS with no hope of recovery. Supreme Court said that, a failure to legally recognize advance medical directives may amount to non-facilitation of the right to smoothen the dying process and the right to live with dignity.

The Supreme Court has issued detailed guidelines to be followed. The constitutionally recognised right to life is subject to the procedure established by law. Criminal law imposes restraints and penal exactions which regulate the deprivation of life, or as the case may be, personal liberty. The intentional taking away of the life of another is made culpable by the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Active euthanasia falls within the express prohibitions of the law and is unlawful. The decision by a treating doctor to withhold or withdraw medical intervention in the case of a patient in the terminal stage of illness or in a persistently vegetative state or the like where artificial intervention will merely prolong the suffering and agony of the patient is protected by the law. Where the doctor has acted in such a case in the best interest of the patient and in bona fide discharge of the duty of care, the law will protect the reasonable exercise of a professional decision.


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