Centre opposes concept of ‘living will’ in SC | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Centre opposes concept of ‘living will’ in SC

A ‘living will’ is a concept where a patient can give consent that allows withdrawal of life support systems if the individual is reduced to a permanent vegetative state with no real chance of survival.

india Updated: Oct 10, 2017 23:34 IST
Ashok Bagriya
A view of the Supreme court in New Delhi, India.
A view of the Supreme court in New Delhi, India.(HT File Photo)

The Union government opposed the concept of a ‘living will’, or advance medical directive by patients for mercy killing, in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Rejecting the idea, the government told the court that “it could be enormously misused”.

A constitution bench of five judges of the Supreme Court was hearing NGO Common Cause’s plea to declare ‘right to die with dignity’ as a fundamental right within the fold of right to live with dignity guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

A ‘living will’ is a concept where a patient can give consent that allows withdrawal of life support systems if the individual is reduced to a permanent vegetative state with no real chance of survival.

Additional solicitor general PS Narsimha informed the court that there was already a law on passive euthanasia and the government had drafted a ‘management of patients with terminal illness-withdrawal of medical life support bill’.

The draft bill, called The Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of patients and medical Practitioners ) Bill, 2016, says every advance medical directive (also called ‘living will’) or medical power of attorney executed by a person shall be taken into consideration in matter of withholding or withdrawing medical treatment but it shall not be binding on any medical practitioner.

The ‘living will’ is a type of advance directive that may be used by a person before incapacitation to outline a full range of treatment preferences or, most often, to reject treatment. While the draft bill does not explicitly use the term passive euthanasia, it permits ‘life sustaining treatment’ to be refused by a competent patient and such a decision will be binding on the doctor.

However, the draft bill has a controversial clause that allows a minor aged above 16 to take an informed decision and express a desire to withhold or withdraw medical treatment and allow nature to take its own course.