SC gives guidelines for passive Euthanasia

In a stunning development, the Supreme Court today gave a list of guidelines for allowing passive euthanasia, or the severing of life support for extremely ill patients when they are no longer able to give consent.

A “living will” or a person’s right to choose death over life support in case of an incurable disease was recognised today by the Supreme Court in a landmark decision that allows passive euthanasia with strict guidelines. “Human beings have the right to die with dignity,” said the verdict by five judges including Chief Justice Dipak Misra.

The controversial issue has plagued law makers and legal systems across the world, with the Indian judiciary being blamed for the suffering of Aruna Shanbaug, who spent 42 years in a vegetative state after she was raped in 1973. She finally died in 2015, four years after the Supreme Court had rejected a plea to stop her force feeding.

NGO Common Cause filed a petition calling for safeguards surrounding the practice of euthanasia, and the Supreme Court, having entertained the plea, has given a list of guidelines.

One such guideline states that the consent must be given by the subject patient prior to the medical process and when he or she is conscious to give active consent. The right of passive euthanasia will then rest on an individual or a family member, who can contest a ‘living will’ by going to court, which will then ask a medical board to determine if passive euthanasia is required.

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