SC permits 'living will' of terminally ill patients: What does 'passive euthanasia' mean?

The steps that are generally taken to cause passive euthanasia include turning off respirators, halting medications, discontinuing food and water so as to allow a person to dehydrate or starve to death, or failure to resuscitate.

SC permits 'living will' of terminally ill patients: What does 'passive euthanasia' mean?
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday allowed passive euthanasia, saying that human beings have the right to die with dignity. Permitting euthanasia, the apex court said that it will be permissible with guidelines.

The term "passive euthanasia" is defined as the withdrawal of medical treatment with deliberate intention to hasten a terminally ill patient's death.

 

Various medical and legal dictionaries say passive euthanasia is the act of hastening the death of a terminally-ill patient by altering some form of support and letting nature take its course.

The steps that are generally taken to cause passive euthanasia include turning off respirators, halting medications, discontinuing food and water so as to allow a person to dehydrate or starve to death, or failure to resuscitate, they say.

Passive euthanasia also includes giving a patient large doses of morphine to control pain, in spite of the likelihood that the painkiller will suppress respiration and cause death earlier than it otherwise would have happened.

Such doses of painkillers have a dual effect of relieving pain and hastening death, they say.

These procedures are performed on terminally ill, suffering persons so that natural death will occur sooner.

They are also commonly performed on persons in a persistent vegetative state; for example, individuals with massive brain damage or in a coma from which they are unlikely to regain consciousness.

 

The SC on Friday said that a person can decide when to give up the life support system and added that it has laid down guidelines on who would execute the will and how a nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by the medical board. It said that its guidelines and directives shall remain in force till a legislation is brought to deal with the issue.

The order was passed by a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. The CJI said that other members of the five-judge Constitution bench have concurred on the guidelines and directives passed by it.