March 21, 2023
  • Supreme Court altered the existing guidelines for ‘living will’ as laid down in Common Cause vs. Union of India & Another (2018), which allowed passive euthanasia.
    • Living will is a written document that specifies what actions should be taken if person is unable to make their own medical decisions in future.
  • Euthanasia is practice of ending life of a patient to limit the patient’s suffering. It can be administered only by a physician.
  • Euthanasia can be either active’ or ‘passive:
    • Active euthanasia involves an active intervention to end a person’s life with substances or external force, such as administering lethal injection. Allowed in Netherland, Belgium, Canada etc.
    • Passive euthanasia refers to withdrawing life support or treatment that is essential to keep a terminally ill person alive. Allowed in India, Finland, Germany etc.
  • Major judgements related to Euthanasia
    • Rathinam Case (1994): Struck down section 309 of IPC (attempt to suicide) as unconstitutional.
    • Aruna Shanbaug Case (2011): SC allowed passive euthanasia for first time.

Changes by Supreme court with respect to passive Euthanasia

  • Living will– An attestation by a notary or a facetted officer to be sufficient for a living will
  • Access to the living will– living will a part of national health record which can be accessed by Indian hospitals
  • Primary board to examine patients condition -Three doctors, including treating physician and two other doctors with five years of experience in the specialty, will comprise the primary board of doctors
  • Time taken to decide– Primary/secondary board to decide within 48 hours on withdrawal of further treatment
  • Secondary board– Hospital must immediately constitute a secondary board of medical experts.
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