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Let Parliament Take Decision on Euthanasia: Apex Court
Feb 20, 2016

The Supreme Court asked the Centre and Parliament to take a call on legalising euthanasia saying that issue needed to be first debated and decided by people's court. A 5-judge constitution bench of Justices A.R. Dave, Kurian Joseph, S.K. Singh, A.K. Goel and R.F. Nariman adjourned the hearing on the controversial issue after the Centre contended that the government was examining the Law Commission's report to legalise passive euthanasia. 

  • Additional Solicitor General told the bench that the government is holding consultation with experts on the issue and may formulate a bill to be introduced in Parliament for allowing passive euthanasia. 

  • Government is examining Law Commission's 196th and 241st reports recommending legalizing passive euthanasia and would take a stand on the issue only after consultation process was over. He pleaded the court to defer the hearing. 

  • Agreeing with the government, the bench said that it would be better if the matter was debated and discussed in Parliament and adjourned the case for July 20. 

  • It also made it clear that the pendency of PIL before the court would not come in the way for Government and Parliament to take a decision on the issue.

  • Appearing for the NGO Common Cause, advocate Prashant Bhushan said the government should give legal sanctity of 'Living Will' in which a person when in sound mind and good health records his wish that he should not be kept alive with the help of ventilators if he cannot be kept alive without life support system. 

  • He said that there were many terminally ill patients who did not want to be kept alive through life support system but continued to suffer the pains of being kept alive because of the absence of legal sanctity to 'Living Will'. 

  • The government, however, contended that the concept of 'Living Will' is similar to passive euthanasia which was under its consideration.


Law Commission on Passive Euthanasia


Law Commission in its 241st report had recommended, "A competent adult patient has the right to insist that there should be no invasive medical treatment by way of artificial life sustaining measures/treatment and such decision is binding on the doctors attending on such patient provided that the doctor is satisfied that the patient has taken an 'informed decision' based on free exercise of his or her will." 

On patients in coma or in vegetative state, the commission had suggested that their relatives "shall have to get clearance from the high court" for withdrawing or withholding life sustaining treatment. 

A two-judge Supreme Court bench in 2011 had legalized passive euthanasia in Aruna Shanbaug case. However, a three-judge bench later ruled that the 2011 verdict was based on wrong reasoning and referred it to a constitution bench for fresh adjudication on legality of passive euthanasia.

 


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