India's top court upholds passive euthanasia with guidelines: chief justice

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The verdict was passed by a five-judge Constitutional bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.

In a landmark order, the Supreme Court today allowed passive euthanasia with permissible guidelines.

Either the patient can draft a living will, stating his life should not be prolonged by putting on a ventilator, once he slips into an incurable coma, or the close relatives can get approval for a passive euthanasia, that is withdrawing life-saving devices or medicines.

The apex court laid down principles relating to the procedure for execution of advance directive or "living will" and spelt out guidelines and safeguards to give effect to passive euthanasia in both circumstances, that is where there are advance directives and where there are none.

In order to overcome the difficulty faced in case of patients who are unable to express their wishes at the time of taking the decision, the concept of advance medical directives emerged in various countries.

Indians receive treatment in the general ward of the orthopedic department of the Swaroop Rani Medical college hospital in, Allahabad, India, February 1, 2018.

However, on 25 February 2014, a three-judge bench of Supreme Court of India had termed the judgment in the Aruna Shanbaug case to be "inconsistent in itself" and has referred the issue of euthanasia to its five-judge Constitution bench.

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The Centre had also told the Constitution Bench that a draft bill permitting passive euthanasia with necessary safeguards was already before it for consideration.

A "living will" is made by a person in his normal state of mind, seeking voluntary mercy killing in case of terminal illness, if he or she reaches an irreversible vegetative state.

Justice Misra's judgement said the heart of the matter is whether law permits the acceleration of death without suffering. The objective and object of advance medical directive is to express the choice of a person regarding medical treatment in an event when he looses capacity to take a The right to execute an advance medical directive is nothing but a step towards protection of aforesaid right by an individual.

"Free will includes the right of a person to refuse medical treatment", Justice Chandrachud observed.

"As the end of life approaches, a loss of control over human faculties denudes life of its meaning".

What are the guidelines to allow passive euthanasia? . For many people, this life brings with it a lot of suffering because they start to see how their family members are trying to keep them alive while sacrificing their own lives, as well.

Living will, or euthanasia, is permitted in varying forms in Belgium, Canada, and Sweden.