Supreme Court Eases The Procedure For Passive Euthanasia

Supreme Court Eases The Procedure For Passive Euthanasia

January 27, 2023 - 8:36 am

Existing Guidelines For ‘Living Wills’ Laid Down In Its 2018 Judgement

A five-judge Supreme Court bench led by Justice K M Joseph has agreed to drastically simplify the process for passive euthanasia in the nation by changing the current rules for "living wills,"  as laid down in its 2018 judgement in Common Cause vs. Union of India & Anr, which allowed passive euthanasia, making steps in the process time bound and less complex in recognition of the right to die with dignity. The move was hailed by medical professionals as necessary. The decision was reached following the filing of a PIL by the NGO Common Cause, which asked the court to recognise the "living will" for passive euthanasia among terminally ill patients.

What Is Euthanasia?

Euthanasia is the deliberate ending of a person's life, frequently to alleviate the suffering of an incurable illness or excruciating pain. Euthanasia, which can only be performed by a doctor, can be "active" or "passive." A lethal injection or other active intervention to end a person's life with drugs or an outside force is an example of active euthanasia. Withholding treatment or life support that is necessary to keep a terminally sick individual alive is referred to as passive euthanasia.

What Is “Living Will”?

A living will is a sophisticated medical directive on end-of-life care. The Supreme Court of India legalised passive euthanasia in 2018, but only if the patient has a "living will," or a written document that outlines what should be done if they are ever unable to make their own medical decisions. Families can petition the High Court for authorization to perform passive euthanasia if a person does not have a living will.

Guidelines on Euthenesia Issued in 2018

The Supreme Court established rules for passive euthanasia and recognised the live wishes of terminally ill people who might enter a permanent vegetative state. In the past, passive euthanasia required three steps and was laborious for all parties. A primary board was established by the hospital and provided its review when the treating physician determined that there was nothing else that could be done to rescue the patient. After the collector assembled a review board and verified the information, the district magistrate gave his or her approval or refusal. Despite the fact that euthanasia is legal, there haven't been any cases since 2018. The rules addressed issues such as who would execute the living will and the procedure by which the medical board could provide approval.

New Guidelines on Euthenesia Issued In 2023

The Court outlined a portion of their order in open court, despite the fact that the whole judgement has not yet been made public. The hospital will now create both medical boards, rather than the Collector and the hospital doing so. The minimum experience requirement for doctors has been lowered from 20 years to 5. A notification to the Magistrate has taken the place of the requirement for the Magistrate's approval.The medical board must notify the public of its decision within 48 hours; there was no time restriction given in the previous standards. A notary or gazetted officer may now sign the living will in the presence of two witnesses in place of the Magistrate's countersignature, which was previously necessary under the 2018 rules. It will now be possible for the relatives to seek the High Court, which will assemble a new medical team, in the event that the hospital's established medical boards deny authorization.

Other Countries Laws on Euthanasia

The USA has different laws in different states. Some states, including Washington, Oregon, and Montana, permit euthanasia. For anyone experiencing "unbearable agony" with little hope of relief, euthanasia and assisted suicide are both legal in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium. It is prohibited and equated to manslaughter in the UK. Euthanasia and assisted suicide would be legal in Canada for mentally ill people by March 2023, but the decision has drawn heavy criticism, and the implementation date may be postponed. Switzerland forbids euthanasia but permits assisted suicide when a doctor or medical professional is present.

What Is The Indian Law on Euthanasia?

The legal position on euthanasia is clear. 2011 saw the legalisation of passive euthanasia in India for rare circumstances. These typically extend to people who are terminally ill and or in an irreversible vegetative state. Both assisted suicide and active euthanasia are forbidden. For the time being, it is illegal to attempt suicide under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which states that no one is allowed to take another person's life. Similar to this, persons who encourage suicide are subject to punishment under Section 306 of the IPC, which addresses suicide encouragement. Consequently, both committing suicide and aiding another person in doing so are crimes. Euthanasia has also been perceived as a form of suicide, and any medical professional who aids in it would be regarded a collaborator in the crime and, as a result, guilty of a crime. The courts have, however, permitted "passive euthanasia" for people who are "terminally ill" with certain conditions.

The Road Ahead on Euthanasia

With the most recent ruling from the Supreme Court bench, terminally sick individuals could easily obtain "passive euthanasia" right away. The directives and guidelines laid down by the court shall remain in force till Parliament brings legislation in the field. A long-fought battle needs to meet its destiny with careful precision so that justice is served to the patient in particular and its family in general.