File photo of the Supreme Court. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
The Indian Supreme Court on Friday recognised the right to passive euthanasia for the terminally ill.
The decision was taken by a five-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
The court's 538-page judgement included lines from the Amitabh Bachchan film and song Mukkadar ka Sikandar.
Paragraph 47 on page 231 ends with the lines: "Rote hue aate hain sab, hasta hua jo jayega
Woh mukaddar ka Sikandar jaaneman kehlayega."
Which translates into: "Everybody comes into this world crying. But he who leaves it laughing is the king of destiny."
Paragraph 46 ends with a quote from Dr Jonathan Moreno, which says: "Euthanasia, and especially physician-assisted suicide appears as the ultimate post-modern demand for dignity in an era of technologically-mediated death."
It it is important to understand though that the court has not allowed physician-assisted suicide. What it has allowed is passive euthanasia -- defined as "the withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment in the knowledge that the person concerned will die."
Active euthanasia on the other hand is "the ending of a terminally ill person's life by direct intervention, such as administering a lethal dose of painkilling drugs."
The court had already allowed passive euthanasia in 2011 the case of Aruna Shaunbaug. But on Friday it allowed people to make that choice for themselves.
(Aruna had been in a "vegetative state" since she was attacked in 1973 and unable to make any choice for herself.)
On Friday, the Supreme Court said that a terminally-ill patient can write a 'living will' that permits doctors to withdraw life support, saying a person with no will to live shouldn't suffer in a comatose state.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra said passive euthanasia and advance living will are "permissible".
The bench, also comprising justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan also laid down guidelines as to who would execute the will and how the nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by the medical board.
The apex court said that advance directives for terminally-ill patients could be issued and executed by the next friend and relatives of such a person after which a medical board would consider it.
The top court said that the directions and guidelines laid down by it shall remain in force till a legislation is brought on the issue.
The CJI, while reading out the judgement, said that though there were four separate opinions of the bench but all the judges were unanimous that the 'living will' should be permitted since a person cannot be allowed to continue suffering in a comatose state when he or she doesn't wish to live.
The top court had in 2011 recognised passive euthanasia in the Aruna Shanbaug case by which it had permitted withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from patients not in a position to make an informed decision.
The bench was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause, saying safeguards were needed while taking a decision by medical boards to withdraw life support of a terminally-ill patient.
On January 15, 2016, the Centre had said the 241st report of the Law Commission 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.
Read the full Supreme Court judgement:
(With inputs from PTI)