Supreme Court Legalises Passive Euthanasia With Strict Guidelines

Supreme Court Legalises Passive Euthanasia
Supreme Court Legalises Passive Euthanasia

The supreme court of India has passed a landmark verdict approving passive euthanasia for people who are terminally ill. The Supreme Court, under a five-judge Constitution bench of Chief Justice(CJI) Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, has passed the judgment on passive euthanasia legalizing it with strict guidelines.

This was passed in view of the appeal by the NGO ‘Common Cause’.  A person suffering in a vegetative state or in a not revivable condition where he no longer wishes to live can opt for dying with dignity and can specify not to be put on life support. But passive euthanasia and assisted suicides are still not legalized in India. Mixed opinions have been posted since the judgment.

Supreme Court Legalises Passive Euthanasia
Supreme Court Legalises Passive Euthanasia

Who is eligible for passive euthanasia?

Any individual whose life is prolonged by the artificial support systems has the right to take a decision on his living will.  The family members and doctors should respect his living will if he decides so.  Even when the person can decide when to die with dignity, the power to identify the conditions suitable can be vested in a medical board.  If he has drafted a living will before going into a coma or other similar cases, then it is considered legitimate.  Also, the doctors and relatives can decide to remove the life support system for an individual if he goes into an unconscious state without any prior living will.  However, considering the disputes that might arise among the relatives, the court has ordered that they can approach high courts if that’s the case.

Supreme Court Passive Euthanasia
Credits: MidDay

The Mumbai based elderly couple, Iravati Lavate, 78, and her husband Narayan Lavate, 88 who had appealed to the President, Ram Nath Kovind for legalizing active euthanasia on account of several reasons, however aren’t satisfied with the outcome.  The healthy couple aren’t eligible for passive mercy killing which clearly is applicable to the ‘terminally ill’.  The childless couple believes that they have spent their life happily and peacefully and it’s time for them to rest in peace.  They also fear that they wouldn’t be able to cope up with the loss of any one of the partner.

Supreme Court Legalises Passive Euthanasia
Supreme Court Legalises Passive Euthanasia

Earlier the death of a nurse Aruna Shanbaug in 2015 who have been in the vegetative state for nearly 42 years after being sexually assaulted, had agitated a national debate over the legalization of euthanasia in India.

Pros and cons of passive euthanasia

While many consider this order as subjected to misuse by health care providers, others praise its benefits. It could lead to the abuse of the elderly population and forcing the person to draft a living will against his will due to family pressure.  This law can be a boon to those who have been suffering extreme pain and agony for years and would help many families.  It can be applied to such rare cases where death would become a necessity.  Not granting them the permission to die with dignity would mean the denial of their basic human rights in such scenarios.

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Many people have responded to this verdict in the social media using hashtags #RightToDie and #DieWithDignity and so on. This verdict is indeed a breakthrough in the history of India.  However, this order should be conspicuously revised and enforced under strict regulations in order to avoid the misuse.