The Centre told the Supreme Court that it has prepared a draft bill on passive euthanasia that allowed the terminally-ill patients to withdraw the medical treatment.
The government, however, opposed before a five-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice the concept of ‘Living Will‘ that allowed a person of sound mind to leave a will to stop medical treatment if there is no hope of a cure, saying it could be misused. In his brief submission, Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha submitted the draft legislation entitled as ‘The Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill‘ was prepared by the Union Health Ministry in June, last year.
- In passive euthanasia, the medical board is free to decide if the life support system can be withdrawn but it cannot be understood as inducing the fact of death. The draft bill was prepared to take the Law Commission of India’s recommendation in its reports.
- The bench, also comprising Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, said that there has to be a balance between inherent individual and state interests as the right to live does not include the right to die.
- It is a duty of the State to protect its citizens. The right to live does not include right to die. Euthanasia is different from the right to die and it can be allowed in law. If we recognise right to dignity in death why not in dying process, the bench said.
- The bench also sought to know what could be the duty and responsibility of the doctors and what stage the treatment of terminally-ill patients could be withdrawn and if it should be only on the advice of a medical board.
- There is a morality issue also. If everybody is to make a living will, will it be morally and socially safe, the court asked.
- Initiating the arguments, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause, said if an individual should have a right to make a declaration, when he or she is of sound mind, refusing a treatment in case he or she fell terminally ill. He said the living will is documents which allowed an individual to express the view that he would not like to prolong his treatment through an artificial process if health has deteriorated beyond retrieval.
- The bench, however, asked how this living will be regulated and how its genuineness will be tested.