Important Judgment of the Supreme Court of India

Making way for Passive Euthanasia
n this column, a brief report on an important judgment of the Supreme Court of India will be given, which has a bearing on human rights :
On the 9th March, 2018, the Supreme Court gave a landmark verdict making the way for passive euthanasia, which is also described as Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS). The Court reiterated that the right to die with dignity is a fundamental right, as already held by its constitutional bench in Gian Kaur case earlier, and declared that an adult human being, having mental capacity, to take an informed decision, has right to refuse medical treatment including withdrawal from life saving devices. Giving its verdict in the civil no. 215 of 2005 - Common Cause vs. Union of India and others, the Apex Court concluded that a person of competent mental faculty is entitled to execute an advance medical directive.
The 538 page judgment was delivered by the five-judges' constitutional bench comprising the Chief Justice of India, Mr. Justice Dipak Misra, Mr. Justice, A.K. Sikri, Mr. Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Mr. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Mr. Justice Ashok Bhushan.
In 2005, an NGO, Common Cause had approached the Supreme Court praying for a declaration that the 'fundamental right to live with dignity' under Article 21 of the Constitution is inclusive of the 'right to die with dignity' and directions for adoption of suitable procedure for executing 'Living Wills', in which a person, when in sound mind and good health, may record his wish that he should not be kept alive with the help of ventilators, if doctors, at any stage of his life, opine that he cannot be kept alive without life support system.
The judgment has paved the way for the terminally ill patients to seek death through the passive euthanasia under a "living will".
Euthanasia has been derived from the Greek word "euthanatos", which means "good death". There are two ways to seek euthanasia viz. passive and active. In passive euthanasia, there is withdrawal of medical treatment of terminally ill patients, whereas, in active euthanasia, injections or overdose of medicines is given to hasten their death, which is illegal in India. Passive euthanasia is considered morally superior to active euthanasia since it means allowing the patient to die and not killing him.