The Supreme Court has removed the condition that managed a magistrate’s approval for withdrawal or withholding of life support to a terminally ill person.

 

Details

  • The Supreme Court has modified its order in the 2018 judgement on passive euthanasia.
  • With the modified order, the Court aims to make the procedure of removal of (or withholding) life support from terminally ill patients less cumbersome for the patients, their families and the doctors by limiting the role played by government officials.

 

What did the court rule?

  • Firstly, the requirement of setting up two medical boards – one primary and other review – to examine the medical condition of the patient has been retained.
  • However, the Court has done away with the rule mandating that the district collector set up the review board.
    • The Court said both boards will be constituted by the hospital and there would be one nominee doctor of the district medical officer in the review board.
    • The medical board must take a decision on such cases preferably within 48 hours.
  • The Court has also made the process of making a “Living Will” simplified.
    • While the earlier rule stipulated that a living will had to be made in the presence of two attesting witnesses and countersigned by the jurisdictional Judicial Magistrate of First Class (JMFC).
    • The new order says such a will can be attested by notary or a gazetted rank officer.

 

What is ‘Euthanasia’?

  • Euthanasia is defined as the hastening of death of a patient to prevent further sufferings.
  • Active Euthanasia –
    • Active euthanasia refers to the physician deliberate act, usually the administration of lethal drugs, to end an incurably or terminally ill patient’s life.
    • There are three types of active euthanasia, in relation to giving consent for euthanasia, namely:
      • Voluntary euthanasia – at patient request,
      • Non-voluntary – without patient consent,
      • Involuntary euthanasia – patient is not in a position to give consent.
  • Passive Euthanasia – Passive euthanasia refers to withholding or withdrawing treatment which is necessary for maintaining life.

 

What is ‘Living Will’?

  • The “living will” is a person’s right to issue advance directive on the course of his/her treatment, including withdrawal of life support, should such a situation arise.
  • However, there is no way a living will provision can be made fool-proof requiring no intervention of the doctor or immediate decision makers around a person.

 

Is Euthanasia legal in India?

  • A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Common Cause vs Union of India (2018) recognised a person’s right to die with dignity.
    • It said that a terminally ill person can opt for passive euthanasia and execute a living will to refuse medical treatment.
  • The Court permitted an individual to draft a living will specifying that she or he will not be put on life support if they slip into an incurable coma.
  • The Court recognised the right to die with dignity as a fundamental right and an aspect of Article 21 (Right to Life).
  • Is Active Euthanasia Legal?
      • In India, active euthanasia is a crime.
      • Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with the attempt to commit suicide and Section 306 of the IPC deals with abetment of suicide – both actions are punishable.
      • Only those who are brain dead can be taken off life support with the help of family members.