Passive euthanasia is permissible

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

Today's judgment lays down the exact procedure for drafting and approving such living wills.

"The Supreme Court has delivered an important and historic decision", said lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who moved the petition on behalf of non-profit organisation Common Cause.

"Human beings have the right to die with dignity", the court said, while hearing a plea on the issue by a non-government organisation.

Speaking about this, Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, "Just as every person has the right to life, he/she also has the right to die with dignity". A living will becomes effective only when a person can not communicate his/her desires on own.

The Centre had also told the court that the government had in principle chose to decriminalise attempt to suicide, which at present is an offence punishable under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. She had been sexually assaulted and left in a vegetative state for more than 40 years. Involuntary euthanasia is a controversial method and sometimes, the patient may have the will to live and may also be against it. "Anyone who is reduced to a life that is unlike that of a sentient being should be given the choice of deciding on his/her life". This Soosapakiam said was liable for misuse by the relatives. Integrity and ethical conduct of the medical and legal professions need supplementary fortification, on matters beyond passive euthanasia as well.

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Passive euthanasia occurs when the patient dies because the medical professionals either don't do something necessary to keep the patient alive, or when they stop doing something that is keeping the patient alive.

While rejecting a plea to end the life of a woman who had been in a vegetative state since 1973 in the city of Mumbai after being raped and strangled, the court had said some cases of euthanasia could be sanctioned if doctors were to file a case in court. While passing the landmark judgment, the court further asked the Centre to pass a law soon on the matter.

"At that time the Supreme Court said they will look at this whole passive euthanasia thing again, which they have, and they have upheld their own judgement", said activist and author Pinki Virani. However, the government is yet to pass a law regarding this.

Doctors have to clearly certify that there is no chance of any revival, only then can passive mercy killing of a terminally ill person be allowed by a High Court, the top court made it clear.

Even when the outcome is known and death is inevitable, it's a tough call for not just the family but also the doctors.