Let ‘people’s court’ decide on euthanasia: Supreme Court

February 16, 2016 12:49 am | Updated 03:04 am IST - NEW DELHI:

The Supreme Court on Monday said Parliament or the “people's court” should be the final judge to decide the legality of passive euthanasia and “Living Will”.

The Centre agreed with the apex court and illustrated the complexity of medically taking a person's life by pointing at how Formula One legend Michael Schumacher is “being kept alive for years in the hope he will wake up from his coma one day”.

A Constitution Bench, led by Justice Anil R. Dave, said it will wait till July 20 with the “unwritten hope” that the government or Parliament will finalise a law on passive euthanasia, the act of withdrawing medical treatment with the deliberate intention of causing the death of a terminally-ill patient.

“Ultimately it is whether you want a verdict from this court or a ‘people’s court's’ verdict. Such issues are better decided by the people's court,” Justice Kurian Joseph, one of the five-judges on the Bench, observed.

On legalising the ‘Living Will’ — an advance directive to physicians for end-of-life medical care — the Bench asked whether the concept was fundamentally against a person's instinctive urge to live.

It asked whether such a person should be given every minute chance to recover without alien intervention.

“Yes. Look at Michael Schumacher. He is being kept alive in the hope that he will come back one day,” Additional Solicitor-General P.S. Patwalia agreed with the court.

“I know a dying widower who saw his sons have returned from the United States and started rejuvenating on his death bed. But the sons asked the doctor ‘how long’ for their father as they had to get back,” Justice Kurian said.

Justice Rohinton Nariman asked whether a 90-year-old patient would still be bound by a ‘Living Will’ he made at the age of 18.

“A Living Will is valid if a person prepares it in his right mind when he is already a terminally ill patient and knows he has six months more to live. Such a Will is not stale. But a 90-year-old man is not bound to a Will he made when he was 18... So the narrow question is the level staleness,” Justice Nariman observed.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.