NGO says terminally ill deprived of right to refuse unwanted treatment

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved verdict on a public interest litigation (PIL) petition seeking the “right to die with dignity” for terminally ill patients who are likely to go into a vegetative state.

In its petition, Common Cause, a non-governmental organisation, said that when a medical expert opined that a person with a terminal disease had reached the point of no return, the patient should be given the right to refuse life-support systems. A three-judge Bench, comprising Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, reserved verdict.

Appearing for the petitioner, counsel Prashant Bhushan submitted that those at the end of their life and likely to go into a state of terminal illness or permanent vegetative state were deprived of their right to refuse unwanted treatment, such as being fed through tubes and kept on ventilator and other machines to prolong their life artificially. A person whose life was ebbing away should be allowed to die.

Opposing the petition, Additional Solicitor-General Siddharth Luthra said doctors would be going against the Hippocratic Oath if they removed life support. The 16th Law Commission was against the proposal as it was liable to be misused in India.

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