Middle-Class Families Treat Elderly Like Burden: Judge On Living Will

The NDA government told the Supreme Court that it didn't agree to a 'living will' - authorising withdrawal of medical treatment if he, or she is in vegetative state - because this could be misused.

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The centre told the Supreme Court that the concept of a will to die could be misused


NEW DELHI:  The centre is ready with a draft bill that permits passive euthanasia, or doctors to withdraw treatment to a terminally-ill patient but underlined this call should be taken by a medical board. The government told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that it didn't agree to a 'living will' - authorising withdrawal of medical treatment if he, or she is in vegetative state - because this could be misused.

A judge agreed with this concern.

"The reality today is middle-class families don't want elderly person at home and treat them as burden," said Justice DY Chandrachud, one of the five-judge bench hearing a petition that wants the "right to die with dignity" to be declared as a fundamental right.

"So a living will can pose problems," Justice Chandrachud said.

A living will refers to the patient's permission given in advance to authorise doctors to stop life-support treatment to hasten a terminally ill-patient's death.

The central government told the court that it had proposed to set up medical boards at district and state level to decide individual cases of passive euthanasia.

Active euthanasia, or assisted suicide, is not allowed in India.

The debate on euthanasia had reached the Supreme Court in 2009 when a petition was filed on behalf of Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse at a Mumbai hospital who had been left in a vegetative state after being raped in 1973.

The top court declined the plea for Aruna's mercy killing but approved the concept of passive euthanasia under exceptional circumstances. Aruna Shanbaug died four years later, in May 2015.

A petition being argued by Prashant Bhushan for the NGO Common Cause reopened the legal debate around euthanasia when it asked the court to declare that people should have the right to die and opt for a living will to ensure that they do not end up lying in a vegetative state and are "allowed to die with dignity".

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are acceptable in 10 nations across the world, including US, Canada, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium. Assisted suicide is when the patient decides to end life and is assisted by a doctor. In Euthanasia, the call is taken by the patient's family and friends.

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