Participants of a panel discussion in Thiruvananthapuram say patient must be given the right to decline artificial life support when it is medically established that a recovery is impossible.

Speakers at a panel discussion on “death with dignity” stressed the need for creating awareness about allowing terminally ill patients to die natural death rather than putting them into hardship in the intensive care unit of a hospital.

At the discussion organised by Pallium India, a registered national charitable trust here on Saturday, speakers expressed dismay at the fact that rights of terminally ill patients, who had lost all hopes of medical recovery, were overlooked due to various considerations including societal constraints and interests of health care institutions.

Setting the tone of discussion, M.R. Rajagopal, chairman of Pallium India, said that campaign did not aim at promoting mercy killing or euthanasia. The intension behind the campaign, he said, was to give the right to the patient to decline artificial life support measures including ventilators, dialysis, life-sustaining infusions and naso-gastric hydration, when it was medically established that a recovery was not possible.

One’s own master

The overriding ethical principles of medical profession, he said, was autonomy, which stressed the idea that each person was the master of himself.

The 196 report of the Law Commission and recommendations of the Medical Council endorsed the concept of withdrawing life support in case there was no reasonable chance of cure, after considering due process of law including decision of a panel of two doctors with relevant expertise.

The campaign was not against hospitalisation or putting patients in ICU, he said adding that need of the hour was a clear-cut protocol in ICU care guidance. There was nothing medically wrong in putting even an elderly patient on life support if recovery was possible, he added

State Commissioner of Food Safety Biju Prabhakar said a well-laid-out procedure should be followed before taking out a person from the artificial life support.

‘Death, a reality’

Former additional chief secretary D. Babu Paul said one needed to accept the fact that death was a reality and it should not be resisted artificially even after coming to a conclusion that recovery was not possible. He called for a concerted campaign in this regard.

Writer Usha S. Nair, journalist M.G. Radhakrishnan, film-maker Rajeev Nath, and advocate Krishnappan Nair spoke at the meeting.