India's top court allows 'living wills' for terminally ill

Active euthanasia vs passive euthanasia What's the difference and which country allows what

In the historic decision, the top court said right to lead a healthy life also includes "leaving the world in a peaceful and dignified manner" and an adult "has right to refuse medical treatment including withdrawal from life saving devices". Active euthanasia means killing a person through the use of a lethal substance or force, and passive euthanasia means withdrawing or discontinuing medical support necessary for the continuation of life.

The Supreme Court on Friday said passive euthanasia is permissible with guidelines.

The passing of the 2018 verdict gains precedence for the Supreme Court has postulated a mechanism for passive euthanasia by allowing people to have a living will. Every moment our bodies undergo change... life is not disconnected from death.

The group sought legal recognition for the living will, saying the government was opposed to the concept and had not included it in its draft laws on passive euthanasia.

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"Today's is a landmark judgement because it comes at a time when medical science allows patients to be kept alive by artificial means and the hospitals to keep charging money", Vipul Mudgal, the head of main petitioner Common Cause, an advocacy group, told the BBC. "The living will is just an instrument that gives the patient autonomy over his life or death".

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, said since a patient in a coma can not express his or her wishes, the law should allow him or her to put down in writing in advance that he or she should not be tortured. "We do not support active euthanasia", says Jha.

In his 192-page judgment, the CJI noted that in case of a terminally-ill patient or a person in persistent vegetative state (PVS) where there was no hope of recovery, "accelerating the process of death for reducing the period of suffering constitutes a right to live with dignity".

On January 15, 2016, the Centre had said the 241st report of the Law Commission stated that passive euthanasia should be allowed with certain safeguards and there was also a proposed law -Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patient (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill, 2006. Living will is an advance directive that allows people to decide in advance whether or not they want to be put on life support in cases of terminal illness.

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Nidhi Mishra, founder of Senior Express, an initiative to promote active and productive ageing, said that while there was a right to live and die with dignity, it was important to ensure that the SC ruling does not get misused.

Shanbuag, a nurse, was left in a vegetative state after she was raped and strangled in 1973 at the hospital where she worked.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra observed that the failure to legally recognise advance medical directives may amount to "non-facilitation" of the right to smoothen the dying process and the dignity in that process was also a part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution. "Everyone deserves to die peacefully", Anumeha said.

The Supreme Court verdict on the "living will" or the advance directive assigns doctors across the country a crucial role.

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