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Passive Euthanasia legalised by Supreme Court: What is living will and right to die with dignity?

The Supreme Court on Friday recognised a person's right to die with dignity while giving sanction to passive euthanasia and living will.

The Supreme Court said that it has laid down guidelines on who would execute the will and how a nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by the medical board. The apex court added that its guidelines and directives shall remain in force till a legislation is brought to deal with the issue.

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said that other members of the five-judge Constitution bench concurred on the guidelines and directives passed by it.

 Passive Euthanasia legalised by Supreme Court: What is living will and right to die with dignity?

Representational image. Reuters

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Misra and comprising AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, had on 11 October last year reserved its verdict on the plea. Here is all you need to know about passive euthanasia, right to die and living will.

Passive euthanasia

A condition where there is the withdrawal of medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten the death of a terminally-ill patient is termed as passive euthanasia.

However, active euthanasia is an intentional act of causing the death of a patient in great suffering. Active euthanasia is illegal in India.

in 2011, the top court had recognised passive euthanasia in Aruna Shanbaug's case by which it had permitted withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from patients not in a position to make an informed decision.

Living will 

A living will is a written document that allows a person to give explicit instructions in advance about the medical treatment to be administered when he or she is terminally ill or no longer able to express informed consent.

According to News18 report, in a living will, a person can outline whether or not she wants her life to be artificially prolonged in the event of a devastating illness or injury.

A living will is a concept associated with passive euthanasia. The apex court, however, had earlier observed that there should be adequate safeguards, and implementation of living will be subject to medical board's certifying that the patient's comatose state is irreversible.

The Centre had opposed recognition of 'living will' and said the consent for removal of artificial support system given by a person may not be an informed one and without being aware of medical advancements.

According to Hindustan Times, the US, UK, Germany and Netherlands have advance medical directive laws that allow people to create a ‘living will’.

Right to Die

Right to die peacefully is part of Fundamental Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. Article 21 provides that "no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law".

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Mar 09, 2018 13:18:23 IST