New Delhi, Mar 9: The Supreme Court on Friday recognised the right to die with dignity ruling that passive euthanasia or passive mercy killing is permissible with guidelines. Passive euthanasia can be defined as an act of hastening the death of a terminally-ill patient by suspending medical treatment. “Human beings have the right to die with dignity,” the apex court observed. The apex court also said that its guidelines and directives shall remain in force till a legislation is brought to deal with the issue.
SC said that ‘living will’ be permitted but with the permission from family members of the person who sought passive euthanasia. Permission from a team of expert doctors who say that the person’s revival is practically impossible will also be needed, the court said.
A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, delivered its verdict on a petition seeking recognition of ‘living will under which a person suffering from a terminally ill disease and has no chance of recovery is allowed to refuse an artificial support system.
A PIL was filed by NGO Common Cause in 2005 seeking a robust system of certification for passive euthanasia and legal recognition for ‘living will’ in India.
The court had on October 11 last year reserved its verdict on the plea. The bench had then observed that it might recognise the execution of ‘living will’ in cases of passive euthanasia under Article 21 of the Constitution. Article 21 states that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had appeared for petitioner NGO Common Cause, had argued that if a person has reached a point of no return, he should be given the right to refuse being put on an artificial life support. Otherwise, it will only prolong his agony, he argued. He also demanded safeguards in passive euthanasia cases if the medical boards decide to withdraw life support of a terminally-ill patient.
“How can a person be told that he/she does not have right to prevent torture on his body? Right to life includes right to die with dignity. A person cannot be forced to live on support of ventilator. Keeping a patient alive by artificial means against his/her wishes is an assault on his/her body,” Bhushan had said.
To which, the bench had directed that there should be adequate safeguards and implementation of the living will.
What is Passive Euthanasia?
Passive euthanasia is a condition where there is a withdrawal of medical treatment with an intention to hasten the death of a terminally-ill patient.