Indian court allows passive euthanasia

Passive euthanasia Arguments for and against the procedure

Medical ethics demand doctors educate patients and relatives about the implications and effectiveness of life support systems like ventilators, but commercial imperatives of hospitals triumph all too often. "Justice Chandrachud has also delved into it", Justice Sikri said. The Chief Justice led his colleagues on the bench to harmonise the opposite facts "life and death" and say in unison that "right to die with dignity is an intrinsic facet of right to life guaranteed under Article 21".

Even when the outcome is known and death is inevitable, it's a tough call for not just the family but also the doctors.

He said the only constant is change, the slow process of dying as we live.

Father Paul Thelakkat, editor of the church-run Sathyadeepam magazine, said the church apprehends that the verdict could be misused as a right of dignified killing of terminally ill patients.

Parliamentarian Baijayant Jay Panda, who moved a Private Members Bill regarding passive euthanasia in 2016, told YourStory, "I've long supported the right of terminally ill patients to die with dignity, should they wish to, instead of lingering on in pain".

The government has no problem with passive euthanasia as devised under the Aruna Shanbaug verdict, but it has opposed Living Will in principle.

In Kochi, a senior priest of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church said legal recognition of "living will" made by terminally-ill patients for passive euthanasia is against the Indian culture.

Justice Sikri, who wrote a 112-page separate verdict, concurred with the directions given by the CJI and hoped that the Legislature would step in at the earliest and enact a comprehensive law on "living will/advance directive" so that "there is a proper statutory regime to govern various aspects and nuances thereof which also take care of the apprehensions that are expressed against euthanasia".

The argument against accepting passive euthanasia or "living will" was that a patient was not an objective or sound party to be making a decision on whether or not to remove artificial support. "There was no bedsore on her, which means she was not in a vegetative state". The doctors in most cases will have to consider a case as that of terminally ill nature hence the living will concept needs to be implemented with the active support of the doctors.

Noted orthopaedic specialist and vice-president of the Stem Cell Society of India, Dr BS Rajput, said, "The latest advancements of medical science, such as stem cell therapy, should also be tried as a last measure to give patients quality of life".

The 2015 death of 66-year-old nurse Aruna Shanbaug, who was raped and left in a vegetative state for 42 years, reignited India's national debate over euthanasia.

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

"At that time the Supreme Court said they will look at this whole passive euthanasia thing again, which they have, and they have upheld their own judgement", said activist and author Pinki Virani. The PIL filed by the NGO wanted "Right to Die" as a Fundamental Right under Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution of India. "Death represents the culmination, dying is the process", Justice Chandrachud reasoned. "Right to die in peace can not be separated from Right to Life", Rohan said.



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