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12 October 2017, 05:03 | Randall Craig
A view of the Supreme court in New Delhi India
On Tuesday, the ASG had told the court that although the government supports passive euthanasia, it is opposed in principle to allowing living will, as it can be misused in the case of elders, etc.
Debating the question of law, the Chief Justice then observed that one can not say that you have a right to die (suicide), but you have a right to dignified death.
He cited examples of various countries in disallowing creation of living will by patients. "Under Article 21 of Constitution, a person has the right to die peacefully without any suffering and therefore he has right to create a living will that when he can't recover from illness, his life should not be prolonged", Bhushan said.
The Panel will decide whether or not passive euthanasia can be granted to the patient.
The long-debated concept of euthanasia and living will, which is not allowed in India yet, is now being deliberated by a five-bench Constitution Bench based on a petition filed by activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, for the NGO Common Cause. "But we recognise that every individual has a right to die with dignity, i.e. the process of end of life must be dignified".
A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court headed by CJI Dipak Misra dropped loud hints on Wednesday on devising a mechanism to legitimise a "living will" even as it said it would not revisit its six-year-old ruling permitting passive euthanasia.
The PIL filed in 2005 said when a medical expert opines that the person afflicted with a terminal disease has reached a point of no return then he should be given the right to refuse being put on life support system as it would only prolong his agony otherwise.
The draft Bill proposes that if a patient is granted passive euthanasia, a living will of the concerned patient "shall become void and shall not be binding on any medical practitioner".
Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for an intervenor NGO "Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy", said that the top court has recognised the distinction between the active termination of life and the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment with the latter firmly recognised as an expression of autonomy, bodily integrity and right to life.
A person's written directive will come into effect when the person is no longer sound of mind to communicate his wishes about desired medical treatment.
Article 21 provides that "no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law". If the board says that she could be revived from an apparent hopeless medical condition, the living will would not be taken into account, it added.
Making a distinction between Active and Passive Euthanasia, it said the guidelines should be followed all over India until Parliament passes legislation on the matter.
Justice Chandrachud also pointed out that a living will is "not postulated on the right to die but on the right to live, as the person is actually saying he wants to live only till he can without outside support".
The draft Bill outlines the guidelines and framework under passive euthanasia where doctors could withdraw treatment to a terminally-ill patient.
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