Aruna Shanbaug case laid foundation for Euthanasia verdict

Passive Euthanasia living will passed by the Supreme Court

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"After this verdict, euthanasia and living will can not be misused as there will be strict guidelines", he said.

The bench said its guidelines and directives should remain in force until Parliament makes legislation on this issue.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra observed that the failure to legally recognise advance medical directives may amount to "non-facilitation" of the right to smoothen the dying process and the dignity in that process was also a part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution. With all due respect, the Supreme Court can not just make a judgment regarding euthanasia. "The SC's decision is a good one as mercy killing was considered a crime in India", she said.

A living will is a written document by way of which a patient can give instructions that his or her life should not be prolonged with an artificial support system when he or she has reached an irreversible stage of terminal illness. It is a concept associated with passive euthanasia.

Ashok Bhanage, head of the neurosurgery department at Ruby Hall Clinic, applauded the judgment that has set some strict guidelines to be followed. The doctors treating such a patient will withdraw medical support provided the patient has left behind a "living will" for pulling the "plug" in such situations.

An NGO based in Delhi, Common Cause, had moved the court in 2005 with a plea to make living will a reality. "The safeguards that the court has built in should allay fears that some people may have", he said.

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Talking to The Asian Age, Ms Lavate, who is a retired school principal said, "We wrote a letter to the President's office, so we are excepting a decision from that side and not the Supreme Court judgement".

Let us now take a look at some of the prominent cases in India that has raged the debate around Euthanasia.

Passive euthanasia involves stopping medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten the death of a terminally ill patient.

Jan 23, 2014: A three-judge bench led by then CJI P Sathasivam starts final hearing in the case. The next to that year on January 31st, The Supreme Court finally asked the parties to file the documents in support to the matter and after 3 years of that on May7th2011, on a separate plea in the matter of Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs. Union of India and Others allowed the process of passive euthanasia, where the passive euthanasia was conducted on a nurse who was in a vegetative state for a long time in KEM Hospital in Mumbai.

The apex court said that advance directives for terminally-ill patients could be issued and executed by the next friend and relatives of such person after which a medical board would consider it. "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". 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.

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