In landmark decision SC Constitution Bench allows passive euthanasia

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“Human beings have the right to die with dignity,” said the verdict by five judges including Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
In a landmark decision, The Supreme Court on Friday allowed passive euthanasia, or withholding treatment essential to life for a terminally-ill patient.
Recognising the right to die with dignity, the apex court said, “Human beings have the right to die with dignity.
The order was passed by a five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Kumar Misra, Justice AK Sikri, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
Passive euthanasia is permissible with guidelines:

The Supreme Court said that ‘living will’ be permitted but with the permission from family members of the person who sought passive Euthanasia and also a team of expert doctors who say that the person’s revival is practically impossible.

The court had reserved the verdict in October last year:

Earlier in October last year, the apex court reserved its verdict on ‘living will’ in cases of passive euthanasia.
The petitioner in the case argued before the court that the Right to die peacefully as part of Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The court had in February 2014 referred to a Constitution bench a plea favouring voluntary passive euthanasia or mercy killing in cases where a person is suffering from a terminal illness and has no chance of revival and recovery as per the medical opinion.

How is living will defined?:

Living will explain a situation whether or not a person wants to be kept on life support if he/she becomes terminally ill and will die shortly without life support, or fall into a persistent vegetative state. It also addresses other important questions, detailing a person’s preferences for tube feeding, artificial hydration, and pain medication in certain situations. A living will becomes effective only when a person cannot communicate his/her desires on own.

What is “passive euthanasia”?

The term “passive euthanasia” is defined as the withdrawal of life support, treatment or nutrition with the deliberate intention to hasten a terminally ill-patient’s death.

After this decision which is being considered as a mile stone in Indian Judiciary System, here is the chronological order of the events that led to this decision:

May 11, 2005: SC takes note of PIL of NGO ‘Common Cause’ seeking nod to allow terminally-ill persons to execute a living will for passive euthanasia. It seeks the Centre’s response on the plea which seeks declaration of ‘right to die with dignity’ as a Fundamental Right under Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.

January 16, 2006: SC allows Delhi Medical Council (DMC) to intervene and asks it to file documents on passive euthanasia.

April 28, 2006: Law Commission suggests a draft bill on passive euthanasia and says such pleas be made to HCs which should decide after taking experts’ views.

January 31, 2007: SC asks parties to file documents.

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

January 23, 2014: A three-judge bench led by then CJI P Sathasivam starts final hearing in the case.

February 11: DMC files copy of proceedings of International Workshop for Policy Statement on Euthanasia in India and SC reserves verdict.

February 25: SC cites inconsistencies in earlier verdicts on passive euthanasia including the one given in the Shanbaug case and refers the PIL to a Constitution bench.

July 15: A five-judge bench commences hearing on the plea, issues notices to all states and UTs, and appoints senior advocate T R Andhyarujina as an amicus curiae. He dies during the pendency of the case.

February 15, 2016: Centre says that it is deliberating the issue.

October 11, 2017: Five-judge Constitution bench led by CJI Dipak Misra hears arguments and reserves the verdict.

March 9, 2018: SC recognises ‘living will’ made by terminally-ill patients for passive euthanasia and lays down guidelines on procedures to be adopted for it.

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