RECOGNITION OF PASSIVE EUTHANASIA




The question raised in recent times was “whether passive euthanasia should be permissible as it is in few other countries?” And “whether a living will or advance directive should be legally recognized and enforced?” These questions were answered by the five-Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India on Friday, March 9, 2018. The bench recognized passive euthanasia and has upheld the legal permissibility of advance directives in connection with passive euthanasia. Passive euthanasia also is known as “negative euthanasia” or “non-aggression euthanasia” is a condition where the medical treatment is withdrawn with the ultimate intention of ending the life of that person who is terminally ill. Merriam Webster defines terminally ill as “having a disease that cannot be cured and will cause death”. Therefore passive euthanasia means causing death to a person because he is suffering from a disease which cannot be cured and thus will eventually die. Article 21 talks about “Right to life” but it is not just limited to the right to life it talks about dignity too. Right to life should always be accompanied by living that life with dignity and the main arguments raised were that the aspect of dignity remains untouched when people who are terminally ill and are being kept alive by doctors through machines. The “quality of life” was also discussed in the judgment and also it was said in the judgment that “Traditional Hindu religious culture also emphasizes the good death as a reflection of the quality of life that preceded it. Quality of life plays a vital role as one should live a life which makes him feel good about himself and that is not the case of a terminally ill person lying on the deathbed knowing that he is going to die one day but then also is suffering from immense pain emotionally, physically and financially being a burden on his/her family and friends and thus this diminishes the quality of life. Dignity is a very strong word and plays a humongous role in one’s life. Dignity means able to enjoy your life without unnecessary pain and suffering and the same was clarified in this judgment when the constitutional bench while limiting its scope to passive euthanasia said that it should be made legally permissible. “Right to life” does not include “Right to die” but the word “dignity” made the way for “passive euthanasia”. Justice Misra also opined that the State interest should not over-weigh the individual interest and the person should be allowed to die peacefully instead of prolonging his life against his will through medical technology. Another counter-argument raised was that if people start to avoid this technological advancement to prolong their life and will accept death then it will demotivate the doctors and researchers who are looking for the cure of that particular disease. If people start accepting death and without even considering that there is a minute chance of the doctors finding a cure and these people will be able to enjoy their life as they used to, which means living their life and that too with dignity. Therefore again the argument started revolving around “Life” and “Dignity” and was overshadowed by the word “consent and will”. If a person is willing to die peacefully then there is no point in prolonging his life against the will of that person. Another word which was used in the Judgment was Sanctity of Life (SOL) which prohibits “the deliberate destruction of Human life, it does not demand that life should be prolonged for as long as possible”. Which means it is not important to use medical instruments to prolong one’s life if it is, in the end, going to cause pain and suffering to that individual. It was also discussed that there are people who are suffering from diseases to which the doctors are still unable to find a cure to and thus are just prolonging the life of these patients and causing the pain not only physically but emotionally and financially too as it is really expensive to keep people alive who are terminally ill and on the verge of death. The concept of public policy was coming in the way of Living will as it was argued that the same can be misused against the patient and is against the public policy as one should not be given the power to decide whether he should be allowed to live or die. For this, the court was of the view that there will be certain rules and regulations made which will make sure that there is no misuse of the living will of one person and the directives given by him in advance. It was also said by the bench that the form of “living will” can be even approved by the Magistrate so that it can hold authority and validity and especially to ensure that the misuse of “living will” of one person will be eliminated when the “living will” will find its place in the legal framework. The right to refuse medical treatment should be made available as an individual possessed of a free and competent mental state is entitled to decide whether or not to accept medical treatment. The concept of “living will” and “advance directives” was accepted in this judgment which authorizes a person to make the decision regarding his/her life and what he wants to do with his life if he is suffering from a terminally ill disease. A living will is a written document made by the patient who in advance has decided what to do with him and has given instruction on what to do if he is suffering from terminally ill disease and is not able to inform with expressed consent any longer. It also includes that he authorizes his family to take away his misery if the medical board has decided that the person cannot be cured any sooner or for a long time and thus to take away the pain and suffering from him they are allowed to do. [This Article was provided by Lexio Solutions. Visit them at www.lexiosolutions.ml]

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