ibusinesslines.com September 22, 2018

Supreme Court Indicates Recognition Of Living Will For Passive Euthanasia

12 October 2017, 05:01 | Melissa Porter

Representative Image | File

Doctors are not bound by the living will of a patient seeking euthanasia Centre tells SC

Active euthanasia is when a step such as administering a drug is taken to end a person's life, while passive euthanasia is when the person is allowed to die by withholding treatment.

Debating the question of law, the Chief Justice then observed that one can not say that you have a right to die (suicide), but you have a right to dignified death.

The present case has sought the enactment of a law along the lines of the Patient Autonomy and Self-determination Act of the U.S., which allow the practice of a living will, according to LiveLaw.

After senior advocates Arvind Datar and Sanjay Hegde placed various facets and aspects linking passive euthanasia to living will, advocate Devansh Mohta placed a draft pro forma of a living will or advance directive by a person specifying the medical conditions when s/he should not be provided further artificial life support assistance.

It also said if a medical board certifies that the health of the patient is irreversible and can not be kept alive without artificial support, then the living will's role may come in. "If we recognise the right to dignity in death, then why not dignity in dying?"

The PIL filed in 2005 said when a medical expert opines that the person afflicted with a terminal disease has reached a point of no return then he should be given the right to refuse being put on life support system as it would only prolong his agony otherwise. The bill recognises the concept of living will but does not make it binding on medical practitioners and says that i can not be executed by any patient since it would be considered void.

In such a case, relatives will be spared the agonising decision of removing life support and doctors will be guided exclusively by the "living will".

The Bench said it would lay down guidelines for drafting living wills and how it can be authenticated.

On the other side of the debate, Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO "Common Cause", said that in India, where resources are so limited, living wills should be legally acceptable in order to avoid creating a hopeless situation for the middle-class.

Under U.S. jurisdiction patient autonomy is paramount, and many States have laws allowing advance directives, even the nomination of a "health care proxy" who can decide on behalf of the patient.

Article 21 provides that "no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law".

The bench expressed its inclination for constituting medical boards across the country in each district and said it should be obligatory. It was also his submission that the government does not oppose euthanasia and has examined it from various perspectives while expressing his concerns on the final say of living will.

Justice Chandrachud also pointed out that a living will is "not postulated on the right to die but on the right to live, as the person is actually saying he wants to live only till he can without outside support".

The draft Bill on the issue outlines the guidelines and framework under which passive euthanasia, or a scenario where doctors could withdraw treatment to a terminally-ill patient, can be allowed.

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