SC allows the terminally ill or comatose people the right to die

SC allows passive euthanasia, upholds 'right to die with dignity'

In a unanimous judgment by a constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, the Supreme Court accorded primacy to the constitutional values of liberty, dignity, autonomy and privacy as it laid down procedural guidelines governing the advance directive of a living will.

The CJI, while reading out the judgement, said that though there were four separate opinions of the bench but all the judges were unanimous that the "living will" should be permitted since a person can not be allowed to continue suffering in a comatose state when he or she doesn't wish to live.

According to the SC, the living will is permissible but with the permission from family members of the person, who has sought passive euthanasia and also a team of expert doctors, who say that the person's revival is practically impossible.

Passive euthanasia will be applicable to only a terminally ill person with no hope for recovery, the court said. February 25, 2014: SC cited inconsistencies in earlier verdicts on passive euthanasia, including the one given in the Aruna Shanbaug case and referred the PIL to a Constitution bench.

Here is a timeline that shows the development of this case:May 11, 2005: The apex court took note of a Public Interest Litigation by NGO Common Cause, which sought allowing terminally-ill persons to execute a "living will" for passive euthanasia. But active euthanasia can mean killing a patient in a range of different circumstances.

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The Indian Medical Association (IMA) said the judgment was long due and would pave the way in ensuring that everybody is granted the "right to die with dignity".

A five-judge constitution bench, which recognised that a terminally-ill patient or a person in PVS can execute an "advance medical directive" to refuse medical treatment, spelt out the safeguards saying such a directive "cannot operate in abstraction". Pinky Virani, a journalist, had filed a petition to end Aruna's life support through euthanasia and end her suffering, but the court refused because she wasn't brain dead.

In active euthanasia, a person or medical professionals directly and deliberately do something for the death of the suffering patient. Medical technology must make advancements for prolonged life and make life easier.

The top court in 2011 turned down Ms Virani's plea, though it said the hospital staff, with the approval of the Bombay High Court, can withdraw life support if they changed their mind.

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