The decision by a treating doctor to withdraw medical intervention in the case of a patient in the terminal stage of illness or in a persistently vegetative state or the like where artificial intervention will merely prolong the suffering and agony of the patient is protected by the law.
The top court, in its last year's verdict, said there was no justification to keep the enforcement of Lokpal Act suspended till the proposed amendments, including on the issue of the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, were cleared by the Parliament.
The constitution bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan which had studied a PIL filed by NGO "Common cause" in 2005, delivered their thoughts on an important case that aims to curb the agony of a dying individual with absolutely no chance of survival. The Indian Supreme Court has ruled that terminally ill patients have the right to refuse care to hasten their death. "The right of life is in the hands of God", he said.
The legislation would be applicable only to the terminally ill who have no hope of recovery. Different counties have evolved different treatments of these factors when it comes to legality of passive euthanasia.
Rohan Mahajan, Founder of online legal platform LawRato, said, "Now a person suffering from coma or permanent vegetative state will have a choice to decide whether s/he wants to die or sustain through medical treatment".
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The CJI said though there was no legal framework in India as regards to the advance medical directive, the apex court was obliged to protect the right of the citizens enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution. Like the privacy judgment, the right to die with dignity is a way for courts to support people living life on their own terms rather than being infantilised by government or exploited by commerce.
The court also considered such cases where no living will or directive is left behind.
The Supreme Court's verdict on Friday legalising passive euthanasia owes much to the Aruna Shanbaug case, around which India debated euthanasia. A living will is a written document by way of which a patient can give his explicit instructions in advance about the medical treatment to be administered when he or she is terminally ill or no longer able to express informed consent. He was seen on the TV lauding the verdict as a "historical ruling" and said, "The whole world takes birth crying, but Mahavira taught us to die laughing".
As per the guidelines of the Supreme Court, a family member or friend of the terminally ill person, seeking passive euthanasia can go to the High Court, which will constitute a medical board that will decide if passive euthanasia is needed. He further clarified that while active euthanasia is a crime, same is not the case with passive euthanasia as the element of good faith and objective assessment of the caregiver of the patient will protect doctors performing this task. "But I suspect that some of the procedures built into the implementation of advanced medical directives may be too cumbersome to be understood by the people who need them".