Passive euthanasia case: Centre opposes the living will

The court is now considering the plea of an NGO, Common Cause, to declare ‘right to die with dignity’ as a fundamental right within the fold of Right to Live with Dignity guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

A five-judge constitution bench of the top court, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, is hearing the case.

Besides the CJI, the bench also comprises justices A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan.

The court had in February 2014 referred to a Constitution bench a plea favouring voluntary passive euthanasia or mercy killing in cases where a person is suffering from a terminal illness and has no chance of revival and recovery as per the medical opinion.

How is living will defined?

‘Living will’ explain a situation whether or not a person wants to be kept on life support if he/she becomes terminally ill and will die shortly without life support, or fall into a persistent vegetative state. It also addresses other important questions, detailing a person’s preferences for tube feeding, artificial hydration, and pain medication in certain situations. A living will becomes effective only when a person cannot communicate his/her desires on own.

What is “passive euthanasia”?

The term “passive euthanasia” used by the Supreme Court in its verdict on Aruna Shanbaug’s case is defined as the withdrawal of life support, treatment or nutrition with the deliberate intention to hasten a terminally ill patient’s death.

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