Published: Sun, March 11, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

India allows 'living wills' for terminally ill

India allows 'living wills' for terminally ill

"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.

The five-judge bench held that "right to die" peacefully is a part of fundamental right to life as enshrined under Article 21 of Constitution of India. Right to life includes right to die with dignity.

Her plight prompted the Supreme Court to decide in 2011 that life support can be removed for some terminally ill patients in certain circumstances. Euthanasia can be active or passive in form and depending in the legal framework of a state, euthanasia is carried out in active or passive manner. "Neither the law nor the Constitution compels an individual who is competent and able to take decisions, to disclose the reasons for refusing medical treatment nor is such a refusal subject to the supervisory control of an outside entity", Justice Chandrachud said. The judgment decreed that passive euthanasia is legal and valid across the country.

"The question that arises is should he not be allowed to cross the doors of life and enter painlessly and with dignity, into the dark tunnel of death whereafter it is said that there is resplendence". The Supreme Court has laid out the framework for a "living will" and also prescribed the procedure for partial euthanasia which needs to be welcomed.

India's top court delivered its verdict on a public interest litigation filed in 2005 by an NGO called Common Cause - to allow terminally-ill patients to "die with dignity" - and argued by lawyer Prashant Bhushan. "The doctors and the kin can decide for unconscious patients", he said. Choosing death, giving birth, abortion, making love, eating food, wearing clothes, and turning religious are extremely personal choices people make.

The court said that in cases where there was no advance directive about terminally ill patients, the doctor treating the doctors treating the patient may inform the hospital which, in turn, shall constitute a medical board. The Supreme Court with a strict guideline to govern has permitted the passive euthanasia.

The case helped shed light on an extremely complex issue of medical ethics and law.On Friday, the court distinguished between active and passive euthanasia.

Passive euthanasia involves stopping medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten the death of a terminally ill patient. "This decision shall be regarded as a preliminary opinion", it said. The next to that year on January 31st, The Supreme Court finally asked the parties to file the documents in support to the matter and after 3 years of that on May7th2011, on a separate plea in the matter of Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs. Union of India and Others allowed the process of passive euthanasia, where the passive euthanasia was conducted on a nurse who was in a vegetative state for a long time in KEM Hospital in Mumbai.

The document should also specify the name of the guardian or close relative, who in the event of the person becoming incapable of taking a decision, will be authorised give consent to withdrawal of medical treatment.

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