The Supreme Court has passed a landmark verdict which will form new laws in Indian constitution allowing passive euthanasia – which is right to die with dignity and permission for living will to citizens suffering from terminal illness.
Today, on March 9, 2018 – the Supreme Court of India has made a judgement recognising that a terminally ill patient will be allowed to write a ‘living will’ which will permit relatives or doctors to withdraw life-support for incurable coma patients and let them die with dignity. The landmark decision was finally made, based on the fact that person with no will to live with suffering from a comatose state should not be forced to do so. The verdict was passed by a five-judge constitutional bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra and justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan after a plea by the NGO named ‘Common Cause’.
With three concurring opinions from the justice bench upheld that the fundamental right to life and dignity includes right to refuse treatment and die with dignity by choice. However, to ensure that the law of passive euthanasia is practiced legally, the Supreme Court bench has laid out strict guidelines to carry out the mandate of living will. The first and foremost requirement to gain permission for passive euthanasia would be a medical board set up to determine whether the patient suffering from terminal illness in a vegetative state could be revived or not. And the second important guideline was to provide authorisation for passive euthanasia in the cases where the patients are not in position to make any decisions.
The verdict was passed after the case of Aruna Shaunbaug who had suffered for 42 years of coma, immobility and complete dependence and was denied of euthanasia. Henceforth, passive euthanasia and living will were legally valid in India and right to die with dignity is a fundamental right as per the constitution of India – under predefined circumstances. However, certain strict guidelines and conditions should me mentioned to avoid the criminalising of the law. There should also be provisions and safeguards in the law to avoid the legal permission to be misused by relatives or medics or in an attempt to suicide.