The constitution bench of Supreme Court comprising of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A.K.Sikri, A.M.Khanwilkar, D.Y.Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, heard the petition filed by the Common Cause NGO to decide on the legal and philosophical issues legalizing Euthanasia. Prashant Bhushan appearing for the petitioners submitted that the life support to terminally ill patients cannot be withdrawn until and unless a system of certification exists. In addition, he also contended that it should be completely the free will of the patient to decide in advance if his condition is considered as a terminal state or not and if not, then he shouldn’t be put on the ventilator as well. The petitioners also argued by giving an analogy that why a patient suffering from Cancer shouldn’t try any other alternative treatment apart from chemotherapy or radiation. Examining the Supreme Court’s Judgment in Aruna Shanbaug case, the counsel petitioners said that in the current scenario, whether the life support system has to be withdrawn or not is decided by the legal guardian or the medical board and not the patient suffering from such terminal illness. He also justified Active Euthanasia that if a person is leading a life of suffering and pain, then he should have the right to decide if he wants to put an end to his life.
P.S.Narasimha, Additional Solicitor General submitted before the bench that there will be legal consequences if passive euthanasia is considered as the stimulating fact of death. He agreed to the petitioner that Living will to be considered as a factor apart from the medical opinion, in concluding when the life support has to be withdrawn. The court also quizzed the role of a state in taking such a decision to which the petitioners stated that the State should come into play only if there are no legal guardians.
Justice Chandrachud asked the petitioner if there is any philosophical issue involved when an able bodied person of sound mind has to decide if he has reached the terminal state. In addition, the bench suggested that the Medical Board provides a sufficient safeguard for any terminally ill patient.
The Supreme Court disposing this off in 2014, invited a constitution bench to resolve the inconsistencies between the division bench judgment in Atuna Shanbaug (2011) and the Constitution bench in Gian Kaur (1996), where the former allowed passive euthanasia under certain safeguards whereas the latter held that right to life doesn’t include right to die.
The petitioner has also sought for the enactment of a law to be based on the lines of “Patient Autonomy and Self-determination Act of the USA” where the execution of a living will is practices in the nature of an advance directive for refusal of life prolonging medical procedures.
The SC posted the matter for further hearing on October 12, 2017.
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