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By Saanya Tiwari

The Supreme Court of India has finally cleared the air and legalised the right to die and approved ’Living Will’ made by the terminally ill patients for passive euthanasia.

In a benchmark verdict, SC stated, ”Human beings have the right to die with dignity”. The court allowed ’Living Will’ which gives people the right to decide against life support system.

What is Passive Euthnasia?

” Passive euthanasia is a condition when medical treatment is withdrawn with the deliberate intention to hasten the death of a terminally ill patient”.

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What is Living Will?

“The living will authorize patients to give explicit instructions in advance about the medical treatment to be administered when they are terminally ill or no longer able to express informed consent”.

Basically, a person in his/her conscious state of health and mind can create a living will, authorising the withdrawal of life support system when they slip in the event of a devastating illness or injury.

A bench of five judges, headed by the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Mishra, issued certain sets of guidelines for practising passive euthanasia until a law is enacted for the same. These guidelines focus on who will execute the living will, the role of the medical board in permitting passive euthanasia. However, to contest a living will, family members or friends can go to the high court.

Although, passive euthanasia was allowed for the first time by the Supreme Court for Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse by profession, who was in coma for 42 years after her rape in 1973 till she died in 2015.

While the government has given recognition to passive euthanasia, living will still remain controversial. The government has opposed living will stating its considerable misuses. According to the experts, a person who opted for a living will today will not be aware of the future medical developments which may recover him for his/ her terminal illness. Also, if a person who has made a living will want to reconsider his/ her decision while they are no longer in a conscious state to do so.

However, the Supreme Court has made only passive euthanasia permissible by the law. Active euthanasia is still illegal in India.

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Difference between active and passive euthanasia

Active euthanasia is a condition where something is intentionally introduced into the body to cause death.

Passive euthanasia is a condition where the medical professionals withdraw the necessary treatment or life-supporting measures to let a patient die.

India now among the few countries to legalise passive euthanasia

With the Supreme Court’s decision to legalise euthanasia, India stands in a row with countries like the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, Columbia and Luxembourg where it is existent.

The Netherlands became the first country to legalise euthanasia in April 2002.

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