The Supreme Court on Friday recognised 'living will' made by terminally-ill patients for passive euthanasia.
The apex court said that it has laid down guidelines on who would execute the will and how nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by the medical board. The court said its guidelines and directives shall remain in force till a legislation is brought to deal with the issue. The court observed that patients have a right to die with dignity.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Mishra, also comprising justices A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, had reserved its verdict on a plea on October 11. 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 cannot be allowed to continue suffering in a comatose state when he or she doesn't wish to live.
The apex court said that advance directives for terminally-ill patients could be issued and executed by the next friend and relatives of such person after which a medical board would consider it.
The top court had in 2011 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.
Passive enthanasia is a condition where medical aid is withdrawn so that a terminally-ill patient can have a dignified death. The living will is a document that allows a patient to instruct, in advance, the medical treatments to be administered when he or she is terminally ill and is unable to give informed consent.
The bench was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause, saying safeguards were needed while taking a decision by medical boards to withdraw life support of a terminally-ill patient.
On January 15, 2016, the Centre had said the 241st report of the Law Commission stated 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.
(With inputs from PTI)