SC Constitution Bench to decide on `living will’ to die with dignity

The Supreme Court would decide whether to issue notice to all the States or refer the matter to the Law Commission of India.

Updated - November 17, 2021 02:46 am IST

Published - July 15, 2014 07:34 pm IST - New Delhi:

NEW DELHI, 02/02/2012: Supreme Court of India, in New Delhi on February 02,  2012.  Photo: V. Sudershan

NEW DELHI, 02/02/2012: Supreme Court of India, in New Delhi on February 02, 2012. Photo: V. Sudershan

A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will take up for consideration on Wednesday a petition seeking to declare the execution of a `living will’ of persons, suffering from chronic terminal diseases and likely to go into a permanent vegetative state, to refuse treatment to pave way for their death.

On Tuesday a Bench comprising Chief Justice R.M. Lodha and Justices J.S. Khehar, J. Chelameswar, A.K. Sikri and Rohinton Nariman hearing a petition filed by NGO Common Cause told counsel Prashant Bhushan and Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that the court would decide whether to issue notice to all the States or refer the matter to the Law Commission of India.

The PIL was referred to Constitution Bench by a three-judge bench. Mr. Bhushan submitted that when a medical expert opined that the person afflicted with the terminal disease had reached a point of no return, then they should be given the right to refuse being put on a life support system to prolong their agony. The issue had been wrongly referred by three judges as one concerning euthanasia, he said and added that it pertained only to execution of living will to die with dignity when there was no hope of survival.

Mr. Rohatgi said the issue had lot of legal, social and moral aspects concerning the humanity as a whole. He said right to die merely because of pain and suffering would not be in the interest of society as it was against public policy. Any change in the law could be brought about only by Parliament, he added and said the ruling in `Aruna Shanbaug’s case’, which upheld the validity of passive euthanasia, was wrong.

CJI told Mr. Bhushan that execution of will would arise only after the death of a person. As the issue concerned all the States, they should be given notice and heard, he added and said the Law Commission’s view also could be sought.

At this juncture Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar brought to the court’s notice that in November 2012 the Law Commission had already submitted a report relating to passive euthanasia and `living will’. The Bench posted the matter for further hearing on Wednesday asking the parties to throw light on the Law Commission’s report.

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