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'Living will' can be misused: Government on passive euthanasia in Supreme Court

The petitioner had argued before the Supreme Court that "Right to die peacefully" is part of Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. Photograph: (DNA)

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Oct 11, 2017, 12.27 PM (IST)

Supreme Court today reserved its verdict on "living will" in cases of passive euthanasia.

The government had opposed granting recognition to "living will" in cases of passive euthanasia. 

A "living will" is when a patient gives consent that allows withdrawal of life support systems if the individual has no chance of survival.

The concept is followed in the US, UK, Germany and Netherlands. However, the Indian government said the "living will" could be misused and may not be viable as a public policy.

The petitioner had argued before the Supreme Court that "Right to die peacefully" is part of Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution

"We have been following the guidelines laid down by this court in Aruna Shanbaug's case and a medical board is the final authority to decide on passive euthanasia, not the living will created by a person," Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha, appearing for the Centre, said.

He said if "living will" is created by a person and is recognised, then there are possibilities of it being misused and this would not be viable as public policy.

"If a person is not of sound mind, then he is a not a competent person to make a living will and in that case, it is a medical board which will have to look into the affairs and not the individual. Safeguards have to be there and nothing more could be done," he asserted.

In 2014, the Supreme Court had referred the petition to a five-judge constitution bench which sought to recognise the execution of a 'living will' of persons suffering from chronic terminal diseases and likely to go into a permanent vegetative state.

On January, 15, 2016, the Centre had told the court about the 241st report of the Law Commission which stated that passive euthanasia should be allowed with certain safeguards and there was also a proposed law --Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patient (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill, 2006.

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