Passive euthanasia: Know all about a 'living will'

While allowing a person to make a living will, a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, put strict conditions in place for executing the will. 

Passive euthanasia: Know all about a 'living will'

NEW DELHI: Announcing a landmark judgment allowing passive euthanasia, the Supreme Court on Friday said that a person can make an advance "living will" authorising the withdrawal of all life support system if the person is in a stage of irreversible terminal illness.

While allowing a person to make a living will, a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, put strict conditions in place for executing the will. 

What is a living will?

A living will is a document which a person can make in advance in case they are having a deteriorating health or are terminally ill. Such persons can choose not to remain in a vegetative state with life support system if they go into a state when it will not be possible for them to express their wishes. The document could then be presented to a hospital or medical board for appropriate action to be taken if the health of the said person worsens.

Through the document, the patient can give explicit instructions in advance about the medical treatment which needs to be given to him/her if in a terminally ill state or when they are no longer able to express informed consent. 

The court said that the living will needs to be made by a person in his normal state of health and mind. It has also laid down guidelines on who would execute the will and how nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by the medical board. It added that life support can only be removed after the statutory medical board declares patient to be incurable.

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. 

It was observed in court that when a medical expert suggests that a person afflicted with a terminal disease has no hope for recovery, he should be given the right to refuse being put on life support system to not prolong the agony of the patient.

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