SC permits passive euthanasia: In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court, on Friday (March 9), gave its recognition to passive euthanasia (or more popularly referred as mercy killing). With the new order in place, now, a person under medical treatment can decide when to give-up life support.
SC permits passive euthanasia: In a big judgement, the Supreme Court, on Friday (March 9), gave its recognition to passive euthanasia which is more popularly referred as mercy killing. Now, with the new order in place, a person under medical treatment can decide when to give-up life support. The apex court, while stating its order, noted that a person must be given the “right to die with dignity”.
However, the five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, also maintained a few regulations on passive euthanasia. Notably, certain guidelines will be in force till legislation is passed by Parliament to deal with the issue. So, here is all you need to know about the case and passive euthanasia in particular.
All about passive euthanasia in 10 points
1. The reason behind the SC verdict – The bench observed that a person cannot be allowed to continue suffering in a comatose state when he or she doesn’t wish to live.The order came on a petition seeking recognition of ‘living will’ made by terminally-ill patients for passive euthanasia.
2. The case – The bench was hearing the PIL filed in 2005 by an NGO, which said 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.
3. Past verdicts – While reserving the order given on 11 October 2017, the Constitution Bench had observed that the right to die in peace could not be separated from Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution. The 110-page judgement, delivered by Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra in the case Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India And Others stated that medical assistance to Shanbaug could—with supervised medical intervention—be withdrawn. The judgement, as per media reports, began with a couplet by Mirza Ghalib: Marte hain aarzoo mein marne ki, Maut aati hai par nahin aati (We die in the vain hope of death/ We die, but death eludes us).
4. The Nuances – The bench, also comprising justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, laid down guidelines as to who would execute the will and how the nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by the medical board.
5. Government’s Stance – The government has expressed reservations over the process to be followed if a person who has made a living will decide to withdraw such a will is no more in a condition to give consent. As per media reports, the Management of the Patient with Terminal Illness Withdrawal of Medical Life Support Bill is already before the government.
6. Role of the Medical Board – As the court upholds to the right to die in its verdict today, CJI Dipak Misra while reserving the verdict had noted that the board will lay down guidelines for drafting living wills and how it can be authenticated.
7. Apprehensions regarding Euthanasia – Experts fear that under-privileged people could be susceptible to abuse when euthanasia and living wills are legalised in the country.
8. Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union of India Case – This was the case that triggered this debate in India. Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug was a nurse in the King Edwards Memorial Hospital in Mumbai when she was assaulted by a sweeper of the same hospital while changing her clothes in the hospital basement. During the assault, she was tied with a dog chain around her neck, which cut off oxygen supply from her brain and rendered her in a permanent vegetative state for the next 42 years. An activist Pinky Virani filed a writ petition under Article 32 before the Supreme Court of India, asking for the legalisation of euthanasia so that Aruna’s continued suffering could be terminated by withdrawing medical support.
9. What is passive euthanasia – The term “passive euthanasia” used by the Supreme Court in one of its verdict (on Aruna Shanbaug’s case) is defined as the withdrawal of medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten a terminally ill patient’s death.
10. What is Living Will – A living will is a written statement detailing a person’s desires regarding future medical treatment in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express informed consent.