The Supreme Court in New Delhi, India has ruled in favor of passive euthanasia and permitted the creation of a "living will" that can allow individuals to decline an artificial existence. The landmark judgment laid down guidelines on who could execute the will and how passive euthanasia could be granted by a medical board.
The court said individuals have a right to die with dignity and allows people to permit the removal of life-support systems for terminally ill or those in a vegetative state. The ruling allows anyone who wishes to create a living will, the will allows the individual to request they not be kept alive with life support if that is the only option.
For example, if you are unexpectedly injured in a car wreck that leaves you unable to breathe on your own and requires the help of machines to keep you alive, the living will would eliminate that scenario and give the authorization to end life support despite you not being consciously able to request it.
In the case of passive euthanasia, the ruling will only apply to terminally ill people with no hope of recovery, according to a panel of five judges. Active euthanasia, the process of administering a lethal injection under any circumstance including on a healthy individual, remains illegal in India.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, "Should we not allow them to cross the door and meet death with dignity? For some, even their death could be a moment of celebration." The judges also applied strict conditions for executing the "living will that was made by a person in his normal state of health and mind."
The Supreme Court also set strict guidelines for who can execute the will requiring a medical board be set up to determine and carry out any "advance directive". Supreme court lawyer Prashant Bhushan filed a petition in the Supreme Court on behalf of NGO Common Cause which sought the right to create a living will.
"This is an important, historic decision, which clears the air," Bhushan said. "Everybody will breathe a sigh of relief because people were earlier apprehensive that if they withdrew life support, they could be prosecuted for culpable homicide."
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