NEW DELHI: The government told the Supreme Court that it would bring in a law that would allow a medical board to decide whether or not to prolong life through artificial means such as life support in medically hopeless cases, but strongly opposed the idea of letting citizens write a will to facilitate euthanasia for fear of abuse. “A draft Bill has been circulated (calling for suggestions) which would allow a medical board to decide if life can be prolonged by support or be withdrawn.
Passive euthanasia is the law of the land. We will deal with it,” additional solicitor general PS Narasimha told a five-judge bench, which is debating whether to allow citizens write wills to allow them to die with dignity and in peace. The petition, filed by NGO Common Cause, is being argued by Prashant Bhushan. Narasimha opposed the idea of letting citizens write such wills.
“As a matter of public policy, this will not be beneficial to us. As a principle that will be applicable across this board, it is not acceptable,” he said, suggesting that it might be misused.
“Anything that induces death (actively) has legal consequences,” he said, opposing active euthanasia. He said the government was willing only to go to the extent of giving passive euthanasia legal recognition. Bhushan, who recounted his own personal dilemma while his mother battled terminal cancer, said the court should allow citizens to declare how they would like to be treated in case they became terminally ill.
Under the existing system, he said, doctors and family members take the call. “Right to die with dignity, in peace, is part of right to life,” Bhushan said.
The bench said this involved important questions such as the possibility of the person making a miraculous turnaround, or medical science later in the person’s life developing a cure for a terminal illness. It asked senior advocate Arvind Datar to respond on how to come up with an effective documentation process of living wills should the court decided to allow it. Arguments will continue on Wednesday.