SC allows passive euthanasia by recognising 'living will' of terminally ill patients

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The top court also permitted individuals to draft a "living will" specifying that they not be put on life support if they slip into an incurable coma.

Procedure for incompetent patients: In case of an incompetent patient (persons of unsound mind, etc), a near relative, medical practitioner etc, can apply to the High Court for granting permission to withdraw or withhold medical treatment.

Life is a fragile thing, one tragedy and you can remain wheelchair-bound for life or worse, live like a vegetable on life support.

January 16, 2006: SC allowed the Delhi Medical Council (DMC) to intervene and asked it to file documents on passive euthanasia.

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The Supreme Court has pronounced its verdict on the plea seeking legal sanction for passive euthanasia. It entails deliberately causing the patient's death through injections or overdose.

The judgment, delivered by a panel of five judges, permits a "living will" that patients can authorize in advance, which will allow family members to approve turning off artificial life support.

The Supreme Court specified two irreversible conditions to permit Passive Euthanasia Law in its 2011 Law: (I) The brain-dead for whom the ventilator can be switched off (II) Those in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS) for whom the feed can be tapered out and pain-managing palliatives be added, according to laid-down global specifications.

In India, the debate over euthanasia began years ago after the case of Aruna Shanbaug captured national attention. The court also talked of involving a medical board to determine whether the patient in a vegetative state could be revived or not.

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The 538-page judgment places management of terminally ill patients at the center stage.

Meanwhile, the government had said past year that it had prepared a draft bill to allow passive euthanasia.

Private hospitals that are increasingly at the receiving end of allegations of inflated medical bills through extended ICU admissions of terminally ill and clinically dead patients will now get a reprieve if the person has signed such a "living will".

Euthanasia as the meaning of words suggest is an act which leads to a good Some positive act is necessary to characterise the action as Euthanasia.

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In the judgment, the five judges quoted literary greats such as Swami Vivekananda, poets Lord Alfred Tennyson, John Dryden, and John Donne among a few, introduced the subject and looked at how life and death have been perceived across time. Active euthanasia, by administering a lethal injection, continues to be illegal in India. But many feel that India is not yet ready for a decision like this which requires a mix of sensitivity and maturity. We have a history of misusing the laws made for human good. If it is legal to passively allow or hasten death, what's to say an aged parent won't be hastened in favour of an inheritance, or a spouse have treatment withdrawn for the sake of a hefty insurance payout? So far, the countries that allow this include the Netherlands and Belgium. Euthanasia is also commonly called "assisted suicide" due to the above reasons.

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