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Breaking : Right To Die With Dignity A Fundamental Right, SC Allows Passive Euthanasia And Living Will, Issues Guidelines [READ JUDGMENT]

Supreme Court of India has held that right to die with dignity is a fundamental right. The Bench also held that passive euthanasia and a living will also legally valid. The Court has issued detailed guidelines in this regard.

“The right to life and liberty as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution is meaningless unless it encompasses within its sphere individual dignity. With the passage of time, this Court has expanded the spectrum of Article 21 to include within it the right to live with dignity as component of right to life and liberty”.

The Bench also held that the right to live with dignity also includes the smoothening of the process of dying in case of a terminally ill patient or a person in Persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery.

“A failure to legally recognize advance medical directives may amount to non-facilitation of the right to smoothen the dying process and the right to live with dignity. Further, a study of the position in other jurisdictions shows that Advance Directives have gained lawful recognition in several jurisdictions by way of legislation and in certain countries through judicial pronouncements. 

Though the sanctity of life has to be kept on the high pedestal yet in cases of terminally ill persons or PVS patients where there is no hope for revival, priority shall be given to the Advance Directive and the right of self-determination. In the absence of Advance Directive, the procedure provided for the said category hereinbefore shall be applicable.

When passive euthanasia as a situational palliative measure becomes applicable, the best interest of the patient shall override the State interest”, said the CJI

Here Is What The 5 Judges Said While Recognizing Passive Euthanasia And Living Wills/ Advance Directives

The Constitution Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan was delivering its verdict on a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause in 2005 seeking robust system of certification for passive euthanasia and legal recognition for ‘living will’ in India.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan argued for the petitioner ‘Common Cause’,Senior Advocate Arvind Datar for Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy and Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde for  Indian Society of Critical Care  Medicine. P.S.   Narasimha Additional   Solicitor   General of India argued for Union of India.

After extensive hearing during which both the petitioner and the government was heard, the bench had reserved its judgment on October 11.

It was a bench headed by the Chief Justice P Sathasivam which referred this case to Constitution Bench on a plea by an NGO Common Cause that a person, who is afflicted with a terminal disease, should be given relief from agony by withdrawing artificial medical support provided to him which is medically referred to as passive euthanasia.

A five Judge Bench of Supreme Court in Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab held both euthanasia and assisted suicide not lawful in India and overruled the two Judge Bench decision in P. Rathinam v. Union of India. The Court held that the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution does not include the right to die. But later in Aruna ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India the Supreme Court held that passive euthanasia can be allowed under exceptional circumstances under the strict monitoring of the Court. The difference between ‘active’ and passive’ euthanasia is that in active euthanasia something is done to end the patient’s life while in passive euthanasia, something is not done that would have preserved the patient’s life.


Living will is a written document that allows a patient to give explicit instructions in advance about the medical treatment to be administered when he or she is terminally ill or no longer able to express informed consent.

All You Need To Know About The Execution Of Advance Directive (Living Will) For Passive Euthanasia As Per The Law Laid Down By SC Today

It includes authorizing their families to switch off life support in case a medical board declared that they were beyond medical help.
During the hearing, the government expressed its opposition to the concept of living will.

It argued that a living will be misused and may not be viable as a part of public policy.

The government, however, said that it had agreed in principle to permit ‘passive euthanasia’.

It means allowing the withdrawal of life support from patients in a permanently vegetative state and permitting them to die.

The government even said it had drafted a ‘management of patients with terminal illness, withdrawal of medical life support bill’.

SC was prima facie of the opinion that there should be guidelines for drafting ‘living wills’ also and authenticating them.

Not agreeing with the government completely, the bench had said that it would lay down norms governing how such living wills can be drawn up, executed and given effect to. “Now that you have decided to allow passive euthanasia, we have to evolve safeguards,” the CJI had said.
The CJI refused to leave the issue of whether to allow a person to pass on with dignity and in peace, in accordance with his wishes, to the government.

“The individual’s will, his right will be thwarted in such a case,” he had said.

The bench said that advance directive by a person in the form of ‘living will’ can even be approved by a magistrate.

Bhushan argued that the right to die peacefully was part of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Read the Judgment Here

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  • […] judgement of the Supreme Court pertaining to validity of “advance medical directives” is reassuring. It reiterates the value of life, not only in its length but also in quality, […]

  • […] judgement of the Supreme Court pertaining to validity of “advance medical directives” is reassuring. It reiterates the value of life, not only in its length but also in quality, […]

  • Ram Kumar Garg says:

    Hon’ble SC has issued an important Judgement of Living Will. Of course court has, as is normally done, has taken a long time to pronounce judgement even after it was reserved 2017.All will agree to me that it is sensitive issue which will still remain under the consideration of Social activist’s Human Rights Family members and of course the sufferers who may opt to die respectfully to get rid of life what they are living.

    What encouraged me to write this article is the pain which I got from few statements of doctors who were over elated after the judgment .Doctors are no doubt like a God to save us and it is the quality of profession that they never give up so welcoming the judgement by doctors is not welcome at all. I hope these doctors of a Govt institution are not going as low as saving few beds or getting rid of patients and not the sickness. I hope they will realize their folly.

    The question is haunting me that will it be implemented in the spirit it was deemed or it will deteriorate the lives of elders suffering from terminal illness or those who have turned vegetables. Keeping in view the suffering of Senior Citizens, which I am experiencing in many cases, will it not be possible that many will opt for dyeing respectfully out of fear or being demoralized or being hopeless etc etc. Will not the children who do not acre for their parents or grandparents will not make them sign a will to die or make them suffer for want of medicines and other comforts. Who will ensure the healthy implementation?

    WE trace the ways to by-pass the rules as soon as a law is made or announced. Helpage India and other NGOs should read the crux in between the lines and not make this judgement a way to get rid of their super citizens.

    These are my personal views which came to my mind as I see lot of yes lot of Senior Citizens right deep inti their Second Inning and suffer a lot particularly the old ladies.

    May God save them and May be Hon’ble SC will have to review it soon