In a noteworthy choice, the Supreme Court on 09th March 2018 proclaimed passive euthanasia and the right of people, including the terminally ill, to give mandates to reject therapeutic treatment as permissible.
A Constitution Bench, driven by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, in three concurring assessments, maintained that the basic right to life and nobility incorporates the right to decline treatment and die with pride.
The basic appropriate to a "significant presence" includes a man's decision to pass on without anguish, it held. Chief Justice Misra discussed the societal weight and dread of criminal risk by relatives and medical specialists which often furthered the undignified passing of the patient.
The court said the time had come to get rid of such collective enduring and feeling of blame and to face the truth. Medical professional attending to the critically ill were feeling the pressure of releasing the patient, securing criminal obligation and dread of being drawn into a "vortex" of a conceivable family battle for legacy.
Chief Justice Misra, in a combined judgment along with Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, declared that the time had come to "alleviate the agony of an individual" and stand by their right to pass with dignity. A meaningful existence should be followed by dignified death, the five-judge Bench agreed unanimously.
Justice A.K. Sikri, in his separate opinion, said though religion, morality, philosophy, law and society shared equally strong and conflicting opinions about whether right to life included right to death, they all agreed that a person should die with dignity. Hence, the court, Justice Sikri said, was in favour of a person’s right to die with dignity.
Justice Sikri said a living will or an advance directive from a patient to stop medical treatment at a time, "particularly when he is brain dead or clinically dead or not revivable", supressed the possibility of future regret for relatives and any criminal action against medical practitioners.
The Chief Justice's judgment has set for guidelines which are specific for testing the validity of a particular living will, who must certify it, when and how it would come into effect, etc. The guidelines also provide for a situation where a living will may not exist and how one may plea passive euthanasia under such circumastances.
Separately, Justice Chandrachud also observed that medical science in its modern form should be aimed at balancing the quest for prolong life with and the need for patients to lead a quality life. He said, that the two had to coexist, it was meaningless to have one without the other. Matters related to death and when a person may die are perhaps beyond the boundaries of law, however, the court believed that it was possible for it to intervene since these matters are also concerned with a person’s autonomy and liberty
"Free will includes the right of a person to refuse medical treatment," said Justice Chandrachud.
But, at the same time, the judge held that what is unlawful, is active euthanasia.
"To deprive a person dignity at the end of life is to deprive him of a meaningful existence," Justice Chandrachud read from his opinion which he shared with Justice Ashok Bhushan.
Picture Credits: Tribune India.
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