SC Allows ‘Living Will’ of Terminally Ill Persons

Living Will

Story highlights

  • The Supreme Court declared passive euthanasia and the right of persons
  • The bench also comprising Justice A.K.Sikri, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan
  • The court was rightly in favour of the right to die with dignity

New Delhi: In another historic decision, the Supreme Court has declared passive euthanasia and the right of persons, to give advance directives to refuse medical treatment permissible. The Supreme Court on Friday said that a person can make an advance “living will” authorising the withdrawal of all life support system if in the opinion of the doctor.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra attached strict conditions for executing “a living will that was made by a person in his normal state of health and mind. The fundamental right to a “meaningful existence” includes a person’s choice to die without suffering.

The bench was comprising Justice A.K.Sikri, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan said that its guidelines and directives shall remain in force till a legislation is brought to deal with the issue

Chief Justice Misra spoke about how societal pressure and fear of criminal liability by relatives and medical doctors ultimately led to the suffering and the undignified death of the patient.

Justice A.K. Sikri, in his separate opinion, said though religion, morality, philosophy, law and society shared equally strong and conflicting opinions about whether a right to life included right to death, they all agreed that a person should die with dignity.

The court said it was time to dispense with such shared suffering and sense of guilt and face the reality. Doctors who attended on the terminally ill were under pressure and dithered in letting the patient go, apprehending criminal liability and fear of being drawn into the “vortex” of a possible family struggle for inheritance, it added.

In a separate opinion, Justice Chandrachud observed that modern medical science should balance its quest to prolong life with the need to provide patients quality of life. One was meaningless without the other.

Hence, the court was rightly in favour of the right to die with dignity.

Also Read: Aadhaar number not Mandatory for Students Enrolment in NEET & other All-India Exams: SC

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