Why India’s euthanasia bill draft skirts the term ‘euthanasia’

  • Rhythma Kaul
  • Updated: Jul 19, 2016 11:48 IST

New Delhi: The Union Health ministry officials met on Friday to give the final touches to the ‘Terminally Ill Patients (protection of patients and medical practitioners) Bill, popularly referred to as the Passive Euthanasia Bill.

The draft Bill does not use the emotive word “euthanasia” at all. “We want to simplify the term ‘euthanasia’ so everyone understands it and we can skirt the unnecessary complications surrounding the term,” said a senior health ministry official, requesting anonymity.

Officials sifted through the suggestions on the Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill , which had been posted online on May 9 for public comments.“The response was overwhelming. We received a lot of comments and suggestions, filtered them and have taken the valuable ones,” said the official.

The BIll is expected to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament.

According to the draft Bill, a terminally ill patient above the age of 16 years on life-support treatment could decide to stop treatment or intravenous food with the intention to hastening death

The issue of euthanasia was first examined by the health ministry in consultation with the experts in 2006, based on the 196th Law Commission of India report. However, it was decided to not make any laws on euthanasia.

In 2011 the Supreme Court, while hearing the case of nurse Aruna Shanbaug, who was in a vegetative state for nearly 30 years, had legalised passive euthanasia partially.

In a landmark judgement, the SC had given thousands of patients living in a vegetative state all over the country the right to have treatment or food withdrawn that would allow the patient to live.

It laid down comprehensive guidelines to process passive euthanasia in the case of incompetent patients, also saying the procedure should be followed all over India until the Parliament makes a legislation on the subject.

The guidelines include seeking a declaration from the High Court, after getting clearance from a medical board and state government.

Right to die in India

Active euthanasia. The intentional act of causing the death of a patient in great suffering is illegal in India

Passive euthanasia: The withdrawal of medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten a terminally ill-patient’s death is “partially” allowed : The patient, family, friends and legal guardians can’t take the decision on their own, they need a High Court nod for stopping treatment .

Proposed Bill

Draft of Medical Treatment of Terminally-Ill patients (protection of patients and medical practitioners) Bill

Allows patients on medical treatment to sustain, restore or replace vital functions to postpone sure death to stop treatment

Doctors will have to follow the decision of a “competent” patient on withholding or withdrawing treatment

Allows for a “living will”, where you can make a “document off decision” on whether you want to be given medical treatment or not if you become terminally ill in the future.

Immediate family or someone with medical “power-of-attorney can take the call for terminally-ill children below 16 years, people of unsound mind, and those who can’t take an informed decision

Effective across India, except J&K

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