Apex Court recognises 'living will' by terminally-ill for passive euthanasia

Apex Court recognises 'living will' by terminally-ill for passive euthanasia

Pronouncing the paradigm-shifting verdict, the apex court said, "Human beings have the right to die with dignity".

The bench said that the guidelines will be in force till legislation is passed by parliament to deal with the issue, our New Delhi correspondent reports.

More importantly, the SC announced that an individual could draft a "living will" in which he/she can state their willingness to end their life in case they slip into an incurable coma.

Laying down the procedure, a fivejudge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, said the will can be executed only by an adult who is of a sound and healthy state of mind; and in a position to communicate, relate and comprehend the objective and consequences of executing the document.

A typical LW takes effect when the person is terminally ill without chance of recovery and outlines the desire to withhold heroic measures.

After the hearing, the judges had four different opinions, but agreed upon the fact that "living will" should be allowed.

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The order that stipulates guidelines to undergo passive euthanasia could be misused, Paikam said.

The euthanasia fire has been raging in India since 2014 when then Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, who is also a medical doctor, called for a debate on the issue.

The Supreme Court has also approved the right to refuse medical treatment and the concept of a "living will". Meantime, a non-government organisation approached the top court with a plea to also legalise the right to a living will.

The living states when a person should be allowed to die, instead of being kept on life support system. The apex court has also laid down the rules, explaining who should execute the will and how the request for euthanasia can be granted. The plea sought declaration of the right to die with dignity as a Fundamental Right under Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Indian Constitution.

In active euthanasia, a person or medical professionals directly and deliberately do something for the death of the suffering patient. Passive euthanasia is a situation in which a withdrawal of medical treatment can be done with the intention to hasten the death of a terminally-ill patient.

Active Euthanasia is legal only in a very few countries but many countries allow passive euthanasia in specific circumstances. It's commonly seen in terminal patients who are mentally conscious. "No doctor or family member can be made culpable for withdrawing life support system..." The decision takes place on a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court which is headed by the Cheif Justice of India Dipak Misra.

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