Indian SC recognizes 'living will' of terminally ill patients

10 March, 2018, 03:09 | Author: Angel Logan
  • Passive euthanasia Arguments for and against the procedure

The SC bench, also comprising Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, said that the guidelines will be in force till legislation on the same is passed by Parliament.

March 7, 2011: On a separate plea, on behalf of Mumbai nurse Aruna Shanbaug, Supreme Court allowed passive euthanasia for the nurse lying in vegetative state at a hospital.

As per definition, it's a direction issued by a terminally ill patient that "he or she... shall or shall not be given medical treatment in future when or he she becomes terminally ill".

Before proceeding with the decision, the medical practitioner will be required to inform persons including the spouse, or parent, etc of the need (or otherwise) for withdrawing treatment.

The group sought legal recognition for the living will, saying the government was opposed to the concept and had not included it in its draft laws on passive euthanasia.

The NGO was represented by Prashant Bhushan in the top court.

A person in persistent vegetative state (PVS) can execute an "advance medical directive" or a "living will" to refuse medical treatment, the court said, laying down safeguards to prevent misuse of the provision to stop medical treatment of a terminally ill patient who reach a point of no return.

The judgment gives legal sanction to passive euthanasia - the withdrawal or withholding of treatment or artificial life support.

The apex court, however, had observed that there should be adequate safeguards and implementation of living will would be subject to medical board's certifying that the patient's comatose state is irreversible. "On the contrary, it gives an indication that in such situations, it is the acceleration of the process of dying which may constitute a part of right to life with dignity so that the period of suffering is reduced", Friday's judgment said. There can be allegations against him for negligence or criminal culpability, said the court. It's a landmark law which places the power of choice in the hands of the individual, over government, medical or religious control which sees all suffering as "destiny". The five judges unanimously upheld constitutional values of liberty, dignity, autonomy and privacy. This decision would then be conveyed to the jurisdictional JMFC who after visiting the patient and examining all aspects would authorise its implementation. It has laid down norms governing execution and instructions regarding enforcement of living wills, as well as the procedure to be followed for passive Euthanasia in case there is no living will.

He also said that a having a "living will" from the patient to stop medical treatment at a certain stage - such as when he/she is brain dead or clinically dead - helps remove regret or guilt for relatives and "criminal action against doctors".



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