SC allows ‘living will’ for passive euthanasia with strict guidelines

RSTV Bureau

Supreme Court

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court has recognised ‘living will’ made by terminally-ill patients for passive euthanasia. A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra said passive euthanasia and advance living will are “permissible”.

The top court had in 2011 partly recognised passive euthanasia in certain specific cases after the opinion of the medical board. That order pertained to the Aruna Shanbaug case, who had sought mercy death, which was rejected.

The Friday’s order came on a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause. In its order, the bench underlined that safeguards were needed while taking a decision by medical boards to withdraw life support of a terminally-ill patient.

The bench, also comprising justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan also laid down guidelines as to who would execute the will and how the nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by the medical board.

The apex court said that advance directives for terminally-ill patients could be issued and executed by the next friend and relatives of such person after which a medical board would consider it. The top court said that directions and guidelines laid down by it and its directive shall remain in force till a legislation is brought on the issue.

The CJI, while reading out the judgment, said that though there were four separate opinions of the bench but all the judges were unanimous that the ‘living will’ should be permitted since a person cannot be allowed to continue suffering in a comatose state when he or she doesn’t wish to live.

On January 15, 2016, the Centre had said the 241st report of the Law Commission stated that passive euthanasia should be allowed with certain safeguards and there was also a proposed law –Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patient (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill, 2006.

(With inputs from PTI)