For Right To Die With Dignity, Court Allows Passive Euthanasia: 10 Points

Passive Euthanasia: The guidelines focus on who will execute the will and the role of a medical board in permitting passive euthanasia.

1. The “living will” authorises the withdrawal of life-support system for patients suffering from terminal and irreversible illnesses. Patients can give explicit instructions in advance about the medical treatment to be administered when they are terminally ill or no longer able to express informed consent.
2. Passive euthanasia is when medical treatment is withdrawn with the deliberate intention to hasten the death of a terminally-ill patient.
3. The top court said it was issuing guidelines which would be in place until a law on passive euthanasia is enacted.
4. The guidelines focus on who will execute the will and the role of a medical board in permitting passive euthanasia.
5. To contest a living will, a family member or a friend can go to the High Court, which will ask a medical Board to decide if passive euthanasia is needed.
6. The Chief Justice, while reading out the judgment, said though there were four separate opinions of the bench, all the judges were unanimous that the ‘living will’ should be permitted since a person cannot be allowed to continue suffering in a comatose state when he or she doesn’t wish to live.
7. The most famous case in India of passive euthanasia was that of Aruna Shanbaug, who spent 42 years in a vegetative state after a brutal rape in 1973, and died in 2015.
8. Though the Supreme Court in 2011 rejected a petition to stop the force-feeding of Aruna Shanbaug, it allowed “passive euthanasia” for the first time, and said that life support could be legally removed for some terminally ill patients.
9. The Supreme Court today acted on a petition by the NGO Common Cause, which called for safeguards while a decision was taken to withdraw life support for a terminally-ill patient.
10. In 2016, the government had said that passive euthanasia should be allowed with certain safeguards and there was also a proposed law — Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patient (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill, 2006.

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