SC makes passive euthanasia, and 'living will' legal, frames strict guidelines to prevent misuse

india | Friday, March 9th, 2018
Team Asianet Newsable
Highlights
  • The Supreme Court has given a landmark judgement on mercy killing, making it legal
  • The court has set strict guidelines to implement it, to prevent misuse of the provision
  • It can be remembered that permission for passive euthanasia was denied for Karnataka's Aruna Shanbhag who spent 37 years in coma 

Passive Euthanasia or mercy killing, living will, as it is called is now a reality in India, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling. 

However, the court stated that a strict set of guidelines should be framed to ensure that the clause of 'living will' is not misused. Thus accordingly, a person has an option to give it in writing that in case he/she is in incurable coma stage or a vegetative state, they should be allowed to end their lives, if they wish to. 

Five-judge Constitution bench of Chief Justice (CJI) Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan heard the case after hearing a plea by 'Common Cause'- an NGO.

After the hearing, the judges had four different opinions, but agreed upon the fact that 'living will' should be allowed. 

The apex court directed to frame strict guidelines for carrying out the mandate of a 'living will'. The court has specified on who is authorised to give effect to it. Reports state that the court is also considering consulting a medical board to certify whether the patient in coma is incurable.

In case a person reaches the vegetative stage before writing the 'living will', then there is an option for the relatives to approach the High Court seeking permission for mercy killing. This clause has been added to prevent misuse of the provision for the sake of property and other privileges by the relatives.

It can be remembered that a journalist had sought court's permission for her friend Aruna Shanbhag from Karnataka, who was in a vegetative state following a sexual assault in Mumbai. However, she was denied permission and she died in 2015, after being in coma for 37 years.

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