In a historic decision, the Supreme Court on Friday declared passive euthanasia and the right of persons, including the terminally ill, to give advance directives to refuse medical treatment permissible.
A Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, in three concurring opinions, upheld that the fundamental right to life and dignity includes right to refuse treatment and die with dignity.
The fundamental right to a “meaningful existence” includes a person’s choice to die without suffering, it held.
Chief Justice Misra spoke about how societal pressure and fear of criminal liability by relatives and medical doctors ultimately led to the suffering and the undignified death of the patient.
The court said it was time to dispense with such shared suffering and sense of guilt and face the reality. Doctors who attended on the terminally ill were under pressure and dithered in letting the patient go, apprehending criminal liability and fear of being drawn into the “vortex” of a possible family struggle for inheritance.
Chief Justice Misra, in a common judgment with Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, said it was time to “alleviate the agony of an individual” and stand by his right to a dignified passing. A dignified death should follow a meaningful existence, the five-judge Bench agreed in a unanimous voice.