India's top court permits passive euthanasia

India's top court permits passive euthanasia

Dr Anupam Sibal, the group medical director and senior pediatric gastroenterologist and hepatologist in Apollo Hospitals Group, said "living will" or advanced directive (as it is called in some countries) allows a citizen the ability to exercise a fundamental right - to decide in advance what should be done to his or her body when he or she is not in a position to make that decision. In passive euthanasia, the life support system of a terminally ill patient who is in a vegetative state is withdrawn.

The Narendra Modi government said before the court that it has already mooted a bill governing passive euthanasia and "living power of attorney".

The bench said its guidelines and directives should remain in force until Parliament makes legislation on this issue.

When the sanctity of life was destroyed, said a panel of five judges headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, "Should we not allow them to cross the door and meet death with dignity?" In 2009, journalist and rights activist Pinki Virani filed a case before Supreme Court, seeking that Shanbaug be allowed to die. In a Living Will, one can outline whether or not they want their life to be artificially prolonged in the event of a devastating illness or injury. Passive euthanasia, meanwhile, is a condition where there is withdrawal of medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten the death of a terminally-ill patient. Govt should come up with a policy: "Mr & Mrs Lavate, who had asked for euthanasia".

What is the government view on passive euthanasia? 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. M R Rajagopal, chairman of Pallium India and a co-author of the study, said there are an estimated 10 million patients in India requiring palliative care every year.




Prashant Bhushan, the Supreme Court lawyer who filed the petition on NGO Common Causes' behalf, said that "this is an important, historic decision, which clears the air".

BJP MP Vinay Sahsrabuddhe said the SC decision is in sync with the changing realities of society.

The court also spelt the guidelines to be followed in cases where there would be no advance directive, saying that such persons can not be "alienated".

Right to life and liberty as envisaged under Article 21 is "meaningless" unless it encompasses within its sphere the individual dignity, the CJI said, adding, "Though the sanctity of life has to be kept on the high pedestal yet in cases of terminally-ill persons or PVS patients where there is no hope for revival, priority shall be given to the advance directive and the right of self-determination". The apex court had, in 2011, first recognised passive euthanasia in the Aruna Shanbaug case.

In the absence of a law authorizing doctors to invoke an advance directive, they keep incurable patients on life support, he said. It is advocated that one of the main reasons which should prompt philosophers of law to undertake economic analysis seriously is that the most basic notion in the analysis - efficiency or Pareto optimality - was originally introduced to help solve a serious objection to the widely held moral theory, utilitarian.

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