Relatives of patients normally seek mercy killing when they are unable to see their near ones suffering or lying in a vegetative state or do not have the financial support needed for treatment and also when they do not see a come back for terminally ill patients.
Supreme Court's constitution bench of five judges has ruled that passive euthanasia and legalised living will be permissible in India.
The decision, given by the Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, said, "The right to live with dignity (a component of right to life and liberty under Article 21) also includes the smoothening of the process of dying in case of a terminally-ill patient or a person in PVS with no hope of recovery". India with its historic judgment joined the likes of South Africa and Japan to allow Passive Euthanasia. If there are more than one valid advance directives, the latest one signed by the person will be considered as his last wish. Euthanasia can be active or passive in form and depending in the legal framework of a state, euthanasia is carried out in active or passive manner.
The court said a doctor should give "due weight" to the instructions in the document.
In Jaipur, Jain muni Tarun Sagar has welcomed the Supreme Court's verdict to allow passive euthanasia which was in consonance with the tenets of Jainism.
In 2005, the NGO Common Cause filed a petition before the court, arguing that when a medical expert is of the opinion that a person afflicted with a terminal disease has reached a point of no return, he should be given the right to refuse life support.
The court also spelt the guidelines to be followed in cases where there would be no advance directive, saying that such persons can not be "alienated". "We must say thanks to her", she told PTI in Mumbai.
The "advance directives" can be issued and executed by "next friend and relatives" of terminally ill people but a medical board to take a final call.
Aruna Shanbaug: The KEM nurse who was strangulated and sodomised by a sweeper in 1973 leading to her spending the rest of her life in vegetative state drew a wide spread attention. Friday's SC verdict allows every citizen to write a Living Will or advanced directive for his/her end-of-life care. "We declare that an adult human being having mental capacity to take an informed decision has the right to refuse medical treatment, including withdrawal from life-saving devices", Justice Bhushan said, adding that a person of "competent mental faculty" is entitled to execute an advance medical directive in accordance with the safeguards spelt out by the court. The person authorising passive euthanasia has to sign the document in the presence of two witnesses, preferably independent; it has to be countersigned by a Judicial Magistrate of First Class (JMFC), who shall preserve one copy in his office besides sending it to the registry of the district judge to retain it in digital format.
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