Indian court allows passive euthanasia


India's Supreme Court ruled on Friday that individuals have the right to refuse or withdraw life saving medical treatment, a decision that is also termed "passive euthanasia".

The CJI, while reading out the judgment, said that though there were four separate opinions of the bench but all the judges were unanimous that the "living will" should be permitted since a person can not be allowed to continue suffering in a comatose state when he or she doesn't wish to live.

The top court further added that its guidelines and directives shall remain in force till a legislation is brought to deal with the issue.

"Life sans dignity is an unacceptable defeat and life that meets death with dignity is a value to be aspired for and a moment for celebration", the five-judge bench, headed by India's chief justice, said in its order. "The SC's decision is a good one as mercy killing was considered a crime in India", she said.

Her plight prompted the Supreme Court to decide in 2011 that life support can be removed for some terminally ill patients in certain circumstances.

What is Passive euthanasia?

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Rohan Mahajan, Founder of online legal platform LawRato, said, "Now a person suffering from coma or permanent vegetative state will have a choice to decide whether s/he wants to die or sustain through medical treatment".

He said, "Till now advanced medical directives did not have legal validity in our country". 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. "The initial case was on living will, which the Supreme Court disposed of on February 25, 2014", she says.

The petitioner, NGO "Common Cause", had approached the court seeking a direction for recognition of "living will". He was seen on the TV lauding the verdict as a "historical ruling" and said, "The whole world takes birth crying, but Mahavira taught us to die laughing".

The Indian judges said the right to die with dignity was a fundamental right and that an advance directive by a person in the form of a living will could be approved by the courts. India does not have a law for active euthanasia still and naturally their request was turned down by authorities. "However, it should be given effect to only after being fully satisfied that the executor is terminally ill and is undergoing prolonged treatment or is surviving on life support and that the illness of the executor is incurable or there is no hope of him/her being cured", the court said.

The "advance directives" can be issued and executed by "next friend and relatives" of terminally ill people but a medical board to take a final call. The next to that year on January 31st, The Supreme Court finally asked the parties to file the documents in support to the matter and after 3 years of that on May7th2011, on a separate plea in the matter of Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs. Union of India and Others allowed the process of passive euthanasia, where the passive euthanasia was conducted on a nurse who was in a vegetative state for a long time in KEM Hospital in Mumbai.