On Friday, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, legalised the right to die and approved ‘living will’ made by terminally-ill patients for passive euthanasia. The court began hearing the case a year ago and this case was a step ahead of the Aruna Shanbaug verdict where although the court rejected the mercy killing plea it allowed passive euthanasia in India. For those who are uninitiated about the Aruna Shanbaug case, she was an Indian nurse who was at the centre of attention in a court case on euthanasia after spending 42 years in a vegetative state as a result of sexual assault.
On 24 January 2011, after she had been in this state for 37 years, the Supreme Court of India responded to the plea for euthanasia filed by journalist Pinki Virani, by setting up a medical panel to examine her. The court rejected the petition on 7 March 2011. However, in its landmark opinion, it allowed passive euthanasia in India. Passive euthanasia is a condition where there is a withdrawal of medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten the death of a terminally-ill patient. Whereas in the case of a living will, one is allowed to make a will while alive giving instructions to doctors in case one becomes incapacitated. In a living will, you can outline whether or not you want your life to be artificially prolonged in the event of a devastating illness or injury. Stay tuned for more updates.