The Supreme Court’s landmark opinions upholding the right to refuse medical treatment and passive euthanasia is replete with philosophical quotes drawn from the judges’ own collective experiences of life and law and also drawn from the ancient texts.
Justice A.K. Sikri, before reading his separate opinion, pays homage to the judgments of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud for transcending the statute books to derive the strength and philosophy which became the foundation for their final opinions that dying with dignity is as much a part of a “meaningful existence” as his years of life is.
“The Chief Justice has dealt with the philosophy in his inimitable style. Justice Chandrachud has also delved into it,” Justice Sikri said.
The Chief Justice began his reading of the opinion with the inevitability of death. “For one to have life, one has to die every moment for it”.
At one point the Chief Justice declares that “I do not fear death” as he quotes Epicurus' “death is nothing to us, since when we are, death has not come, and when death has come, we are not”.
Chief Justice Misra said the fundamental question that puzzled the court was “whether the Hippocratic oath should prevent us from entering the dark tunnel of death with dignity.”
Answering the vexatious question whether the “right to life includes the right to die”, Justice Chandrachud concludes that "life and death are inseparable".
He says the only constant is change, the slow process of dying as we live. “We are in a state of flux, change being the norm. To be is to die,” he read out in the courtroom.
“There is no antithesis between life and death. Death represents the culmination, dying is the process,” Justice Chandrachud reasoned.
He said how old age brings dependency. A dilution of the self. “As we age, simple tasks become less simple,” Justice Chandrachud.
The right to decide for ourselves to die without suffering is the last vestige of dignity we can afford ourselves, he said.
Justice Chandrachud refers to Ecclesiastes, when he quotes “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die... a time to search and a time to give up”.