SC notice to States on right to die with dignity

July 17, 2014 03:45 am | Updated November 17, 2021 02:46 am IST - NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to all States and Union Territories seeking their response to decide an important question: whether the right to die with dignity was part of the right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution (right to life and liberty).

A Constitution Bench, comprising Chief Justice R.M. Lodha and Justices J.S. Khehar, J. Chelameswar, A.K. Sikri and Rohinton Nariman, issued notice on a petition filed by Common Cause, a non-governmental organisation, after hearing counsel Prashant Bhushan and Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi.

Mr. Bhushan submitted that persons with chronic terminal diseases and likely to go into a permanent vegetative state must have the right to execute a “living will” to refuse treatment and die. He contended that when a medical expert opined that the person with the terminal disease had reached a point of no return, then he or she should be given the right to refuse being put on a life-support system.

Mr. Rohatgi submitted that passive euthanasia was a form of suicide which could not be allowed as it would amount to an offence. The issue pertained not only to the Constitution but also involved morality, religion and medical science and social issues.

Mr. Rohatgi said the right to die merely because of pain and suffering would not be in the interest of society and was against public policy. Only Parliament could make any change in the law. The ruling in the Aruna Shanbaug case, upholding the validity of passive euthanasia, was wrong. If legalised, euthanasia would be misused in the country. Further, when to stop medical treatment was not something easily decided. The legislature had to debate and decide the matter.

The Chief Justice drew the attention of counsel to the fact that what was the least painful way to bring life to an end was debatable. Many discussions had been held, but no unanimous finding was reached.

Considering the important questions of law to be decided, senior advocate T.R. Andhyarujina was appointed amicus curiae to assist the court.

0 / 0
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

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.