Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, 1950, guarantees the right to life to all persons within the territory of India and states: "No person shall be deprived of his right to life and personal liberty except according to procedure established by law." THE question is whether right to life also includes right to die too?
Supreme Court declared the Right to die with dignity as a Fundamental right, in a landmark judgment on 9 March 2018, passed an order allowing Passive Euthanasia in the country. A five-judge bench of the apex court headed by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and comprising Justices A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, gave legal sanctions to passive euthanasia, permitting ‘living will’ by the patients on withdrawing medical support if they slip in to irreversible coma. Further SC issued guidelines also in recognition of “living will” made by terminally-ill patients.
Here are some highlights of the case:
RIGHT TO DIE DOESNOT INCLUDE RIGHT TO COMMIT SUICIDE
The Constitution Bench ruled, Right to life is a natural right embodied in Article 21 but suicide is an unnatural termination or extinction of life and, therefore, incompatible and inconsistent with the concept of right to life.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ACTIVE AND PASSIVE EUTHUNASIA
ACTIVE Euthanasia entails a positive act or affirmative action or act of commission entailing the use of lethal substances or forces to cause the intentional death of a person by direct intervention, e.g., a lethal injection given to a person with terminal cancer who is in terrible agony. PASSIVE Euthanasia, on the other hand, also called negative euthanasia or non-aggressive euthanasia, entails withdrawing of life support measures or withholding of medical treatment for continuance of life.
It has been clarified that the right to die with dignity at the end of life is not to be confused or equated with the right to die an unnatural death curtailing the natural span of life.
Further, we are gifted with an unwanted social pressure by our society where morality or confusion of the doctors but also the social values and the mindset of the family are important factors in this regard. Because many times, a family may not desire to go ahead with the process of treatment but is compelled to do so under social pressure. The social psyche constantly makes him/her feel guilty. The apprehension, the cultural stigma, the social reprehension, the allegation of conspiracy, the ethical dilemma and there is need for the law to make an entry to alleviate the agony of the individual and dispel the collective attributes and perceptions so that the confusion is clear.
MISUSE OF RIGHT BY NEAR RELATIVES
This right enshrined in our Constitution and promised by our Apex court, cannot be left solely to the patient‘s relatives or to the doctors or next friend to decide whether to withdraw the life support of an incompetent person, because there is always a risk in our country that this may be misused by some unscrupulous persons who wish to inherit or otherwise grab the property of the patient. The commercialization of our society has crossed all limits. In this connection, the High Court will pass suitable orders on application made by the near relatives or next friend or the doctors/hospital staff praying for permission to withdraw the life support of an incompetent person.
Laws are made for the people and it should be changed to meet the aims and aspirations of the changing society to serve its purpose. It is duty bound to walk with the growing society.