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Supreme Court of India upholds passive euthanasia for terminally ill individuals

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of India [official website] on Friday upheld [ruling, PDF] the verdict of the Constitutional Bench which upheld the removal of life-support for individuals who are terminally ill or in incurable comas, otherwise known as passive euthanasia. The Supreme Court of India upheld the right to die with dignity as a fundamental right.

The 538 page judgement focuses on the rights of the terminally ill and how they should be given the liberty to exercise autonomy over it if they are of sound mind. The Court stressed the importance of allowing passive euthanasia only when the patient is in sound mind and has the ability to make an informed decision about their choice.

The Supreme Court of India concluded:

The Constitution Bench in Gian Kaur's case held that the “right to life: including right to  live with human dignity” would mean the existence of such right up to the end of natural life, which also includes the right to a dignified life up to the point of death including a dignified procedure of death.

The Court concluded the right to passive euthanasia was upheld by Article 21 of the Constitution of India which declares that no person will be deprived of his life or personal liberty except for procedures established by law. The Court's judgement also allows for terminally ill individuals to refuse medical treatment which would include life saving devices. In deciding this, the Court is allowing individuals to make the choice to stop life-saving measures to prevent their family members and medical staff from needed to halt measures in the patients' best interest.

The second part of the judgement permits a 'living will' in law, which allows a patient to give consent to withdraw life support if they are reduced to a vegetative state with no chance of recovery. The Court also requires this decision to be made by a person in "a normal state of health and mind."

Due to this judgement, there will not be the possibility for doctors to be prosecuted for assisting in the will of terminally ill patients who wish to end their lives on their own terms.

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