Terminally ill person has right to refuse treatment: SC

Terminally ill person has right to refuse treatment: SC

Terminally ill person has right to refuse treatment: SC

The Supreme Court has framed strict guidelines and formed a medical panel for passive euthanasia.

It said that in cases where a patient is terminally-ill and undergoing prolonged treatment for an ailment which is incurable or where there is no hope of being cured, the doctor may inform the hospital which would set up a medical board.

In a unanimous judgment by a constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, the Supreme Court accorded primacy to the constitutional values of liberty, dignity, autonomy and privacy as it laid down procedural guidelines governing the advance directive of a living will. The bench also comprised justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan. In medical terms, there are two types of Euthanasia- active and passive.

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In fact, there is a provision where advance directives (ADs) can be prepared by a person while still in possession of decisional capacity about how treatment decisions should be made on her or his behalf in the event she or he loses the capacity to make such decisions.

The bench was hearing the PIL filed in 2005 by the NGO which said 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. At the time, it permitted withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from patients not in a position to make an informed decision. "On the other hand, a patient's right to refuse treatment lacks his specific intention to die, rather it protects the patient from unwanted medical treatment", it said.

Passive euthanasia will apply only to a terminally ill person with no hope of recovery, the top court said. However, the bench had then hinted that it could allow the execution of "living will" in cases of passive euthanasia under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

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The top court in 2011 turned down Ms Virani's plea, though it said the hospital staff, with the approval of the Bombay High Court, can withdraw life support if they changed their mind.

In comparison, a living will is a written document in which the patient can give explicit instructions in advance about future medical treatment and the process to be followed in terminal or ventilator situations.

Acting on the recommendations only in 2016, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare released the draft Medical Treatment of Terminally-ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill on May 9, inviting suggestions.

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The 2015 death of 66-year-old nurse Aruna Shanbaug, who was raped and left in a vegetative state for 42 years, reignited India's national debate over euthanasia.

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