File photo: Supreme Court. Photograph: (Zee News Network)
The option is made available only to the terminally ill who are at the last stage of their life without any hope of recovery or improvement
In a historical judgment, the supreme court of India has recognised that living will of ''terminally ill patients'' will now be legally valid and this living will permit the medical professionals to end the terminally ill patients' life when he or she is incurable.
Supreme Court was hearing a plea seeking to legalise the protocol. Passive euthanasia gives a terminally ill patient the right to choose not to sustain life through the artificial support system. The option is made available only to the terminally ill who are at the last stage of their life without any hope of recovery or improvement.
For 13 years petitioners have argued that persons afflicted with incurable terminal disease be given the right to refuse to be put on life support systems because it further agonises them. The decision by the apex court to allow passive euthanasia under set guidelines has come as a major relief for the petitioners.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra decided that passive euthanasia should be legalised. Now, a terminally patient will be able to decide if his/her life should not be prolonged with the help of life support or a ventilator.
"The apex court, however, had previously observed that there should be adequate safeguards. Implementation of 'living will' would be subject to medical board's certifying that the patient's comatose state is irreversible," PTI reported.
A person's 'living will' is a written document that allows a patient to give a detailed account of the medical treatment to be administered to him/her when the person is terminally ill and with no chances of natural survival or recovery.
SC said that 'living will' be permitted but with the permission from family members of the person who seeks passive euthanasia. A team of expert doctors will have to confirm that the person's revival is practically impossible.
The plea to the Supreme Court was filed by the NGO group 'Common Cause'.
Many lauded the judgment including those who had previously advocated that Aruna Shanbaug be given the right to die with dignity, a terminally ill nurse who remained in a vegetative state for 45 years.
This judgment has also made way for moral incursions where questions are being raised on the method of passive euthanasia as it gives a vivid assumption that the patient is anyway going to die. However, legalising passive euthanasia does spare the family members from making tough decisions on behalf of the terminally ill patients.
(With inputs from agencies)