In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court allowed passive euthanasia while setting down guidelines. The court observed that right to die with dignity is a fundamental right.
A Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra said that passive euthanasia is permissible as also advance directive of a person refusing life support treatment in case it is determined that s/he couldn't be revived.
While the judges gave four different opinions they concurred on the fact that unanimous that 'Living Will' should be permitted as a person could not be allowed to continue suffering in a vegetative state when s/he did not wish to live anymore knowing fully well that s/he would not revive.
The court laid down guidelines for carrying out the mandate of a Living Will or Advance Directive. It specified who is authorised to give effect to it. Further, the court spoke of involving a medical board to determine whether the patient in a vegetative state could be revived or not.
The Bench said that it was aware of the pitfalls in giving effect to Living Wills given the property disputes relatives have. It said relatives of a patient who has not written a Living Will can approach the High Courts for passive euthanasia.
The petitioner, NGO 'Common Cause', had approached the court seeking a direction for recognition of 'living will' and contended that when a medical expert said that a person afflicted with terminal disease had reached a point of no return, then she should be given the right to refuse being put on life support.
"How can a person be told that he/she does not have right to prevent torture on his body? Right to life includes right to die with dignity. A person cannot be forced to live on the support of a ventilator. Keeping a patient alive by artificial means against his/her wishes is an assault on his/her body," the petition said.