"To die as per clearly stated, prior personal choice, without being tethered to tubes and machines in a usually futile bid to slightly prolong life in a comatose state, is a right that everyone must be granted", Reddy said, reacting to the Supreme Court ruling which recognised the right of a terminally-ill patient to make an "advance medical directive", or "living will" refusing medical treatment.
The court specified that family members of terminally ill patients can seek passive euthanasia for a patient by petitioning the court, which would then appoint a committee of doctors to evaluate the necessity of the petition.
"This is an important, historic decision, which clears the air", said supreme court lawyer Prashant Bhushan.
Her plight prompted the Supreme Court to decide in 2011 that life support can be removed for some terminally ill patients in certain circumstances. It is a concept associated with passive euthanasia. "Neither the law nor the Constitution compels an individual who is competent and able to take decisions, to disclose the reasons for refusing medical treatment nor is such a refusal subject to the supervisory control of an outside entity", Justice Chandrachud said.
The bench, which also included judges A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, laid down guidelines on who would execute the will and how the nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by the medical board. Like the privacy judgment, the right to die with dignity is a way for courts to support people living life on their own terms rather than being infantilised by government or exploited by commerce. The Supreme Court with a strict guideline to govern has permitted the passive euthanasia.
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"To decrease the misuse the court has said that making of living will be allowed only after getting certification from a medical authority that the patient's comatose state is irreversible", Rohan added. Living will is an advance directive that allows people to decide in advance whether or not they want to be put on life support in cases of terminal illness.
The petitioner, NGO "Common Cause", had approached the court seeking a direction for recognition of "living will".
The court also spelt the guidelines to be followed in cases where there would be no advance directive, saying that such persons can not be "alienated". It differs from active euthanasia, which means killing a person through the use of lethal substance or force.
The guidelines also require that the withdrawal of the life support shall be intimated by the concerned magistrate to the High Court which will keep the report in a digital format as also in hard copy that will be destroyed after three years of the patient's death. The debate around the need change euthanasia laws in India was triggered by the Aruna Shanbaug case.
The document should also specify the name of the guardian or close relative, who in the event of the person becoming incapable of taking a decision, will be authorised give consent to withdrawal of medical treatment.