In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court has legalized passive euthanasia in India with some guidelines.
Here is all that you need to know about passive euthanasia in India and the guidelines set by the apex court:
1. The term “euthanasia” from Greek means “good death” and refers to the medical practice where life of a patient is ended intentionally to relieve his/her pain and suffering that can no longer be treated to cure.
2. While active euthanasia involves administering of a lethal injection, passive euthanasia is all about withholding treatment necessary for the continuance of life.
3. As per the Supreme Court guideline, any adult with a sound and healthy state of mind, can make an Advance Directive or a “living will” in advance where he/she will give specific and explicit instructions on the medical treatment he/she will be administered in case of terminal illness.
4. Only a terminally ill person, who has no hope for recovery, has the right to refuse medical treatment to avoid “protracted physical suffering”, and opt for passive euthanasia.
5. The “living will” must be voluntarily executed and without any coercion or compulsion.
6. The “living will” for passive euthanasia should authorize a guardian, who will give consent for withdrawal of treatment when the patient is incapable for doing so.
7. The “living will” has to be signed by the executor, in presence of two witnesses, who will also attest the document. The papers will be countersigned by the jurisdictional Judicial Magistrate of First Class (JMFC).
8. One copy of the document will be preserved at the JMFC office, while another will be forwarded to the registry of the jurisdictional district court. A third copy will be given to an authorized officer of the local government.
9. The JMFC has to inform the immediate family members of the executor about his/her decision, if they are not present at the time of signing of the documents.
10. The executor may withdraw the Advance Directive at any point of time. But he/she has to apply for the withdrawal in writing.
11. A family member or a friend can contest the “living will” at the High Court, who, in turn, will ask a medical board to reassess the condition of the patient.
12. If a patient is terminally ill, which is incurable, but he/she does not have a “living will”, the hospital can constitute a medical board.
The patient’s family members will be updated about the patient’s condition as well as the pros and cons passive euthanasia. The minutes of this discussion will be recorded. Only after the family members give their consent in writing, will the necessary course of action be initiated.