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Common Cause ‘A’ Registered Society, etc Vs. Union of India (UOI) and OR’s., Etc. Writ Petition (CIVIL) No.215 of 2005

Petitioner: Common Cause ‘A’ Registered Society, etc

Respondent: Union of India (UOI) and OR’s.

Court: The Supreme Court of India

Bench: Justice Dipak Mishra and Justice A.M Khanwilkar

Decided on: 9 March 2018

Case No: Writ Petition (Civil) No. 215 of 2005

Equivalent Citations: 2014 AIR SC 1556 and 2014 SCC 5 338

FACTS OF THE CASE

In this landmark case, a civil writ petition was filed in 2005 in the Hon’ble Supreme Court by a registered society under Article 32 of the Constitution of India to legalise living will and passive euthanasia. Also, before filing a PIL, a letter has to be written to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Law and Justice in the context of passive euthanasia. But they did not receive any reply from the government regarding that letter. After this only, a PIL was filed, and the question was raised on the basis of Article 21 of the Constitution of India, which provided the right to life and stated that the right to die also falls under this aspect. If we look at it in simple words, the main contention was based on the point that if we have a fundamental right to live with dignity, then this right should also be extended to the right to die with dignity. It’s the personal choice of the individual. Whether to live or not. Furthermore, it was mentioned that as in the 21st century, technology is doing great day by day and it is due to this that such situations arise that cause pain and agony to both patients and their family members. Moreover, the petitioner contended that it is necessary to legalise living wills because this is the only way an ill person who is suffering from terminal diseases has the authority to authorise the family to stop his/her treatment and he/she can die peacefully with dignity.

ISSUES RAISED

  1. Whether Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which provides the right to life, also includes the right to die with dignity?
  2. Whether in the living will of the patient, passive euthanasia should be permitted or not?
  3. Is there any difference between active euthanasia and passive euthanasia?
  4. Is it possible for a person who is suffering from an incurable disease to refuse to continue medical treatment and life-saving devices?

CONTENTION

From Petitioner’s Side

  1. Every man or woman has their own proper for his or her self-dedication and must be approved to have a preference for his or her very own fate.
  2. The advanced era based numerous techniques or tablets and medicinal drugs that unnecessarily prolong the existence of the sufferers and their loved ones while inflicting numerous miseries and afflictions.
  3. They additionally contended that it’s far better to die in preference to being under a few enormous and chronic aches and going through medicinal drugs that don’t remedy and amplify their existence with the identical aches.
  4. Further, if someone isn’t in a circumstance to be cured or going through a totally pathetic level of existence, then he must be allowed to die with dignity due to the fact that in any variety of instances, the mercy petition is filed with the aid of using the patients of their own circle of relatives’ contributors or a few different loved ones or caretakers. The burden placed on one’s own circle of relatives is enormous and spans many domains, including financial, emotional, physical, mental, social, and time aspects.
  5. The proper to refuse scientific remedies is nicely diagnosed in law, consisting of the scientific remedy that prolongs the affected person’s existence. The right to refuse treatment allows for passive euthanasia.
  6. Euthanasia will offer a possibility for the affected person to donate their organs, so it’s going to no longer only supply them with the right to die with dignity, but additionally offer organs to the organ-needy sufferers.

From Respondent’s Side

  1. They state that each loss of life isn’t painful.
  2. Further, it is contended that each character has a proper to lifestyle inherited to them proper from their birth, as mentioned under Article 21 of the Constitution. However, the idea of euthanasia is an unnatural termination of lifestyles and it’s far from derogative in admiration of Article 21. Therefore, the right to a lifestyle does now no longer consist of the right to die.
  3. It is the obligation of the state to safeguard the lifestyles of each citizen, and euthanasia might undermine the obligation of imparting care and saving the lifestyles of the patients.
  4. Further, they say that the use of Euthanasia will limit the invention of the latest drugs which honestly can remedy incurable illnesses, and it’ll discourage the studies and invention of these unique illnesses in the near future.
  5. There is likewise the provision of a few options, like the cessation of energetic remedies in combination with the use of powerful ache relief.

RATIONALE

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to life to everyone, and in the context of this right, an NGO named “Common Cause” is praying before the hon’ble supreme court that the right to life itself includes the right to die peacefully. And the hon’ble supreme court allows passive euthanasia and living will. The main reason behind this view is that passive euthanasia respects an individual’s autonomy because it’s the choice of an individual how he/she wants to live their lives. It includes the dying process and the destiny of an individual. Sometimes the situation is that the pain and agony are intolerable. At that time, it should be the patient who feels the distance between death and life and always chooses death to be free from intolerable pain and distress. But at the same time, it directly affects the solidarity and dignity of the right to life and also points out the failure of medical ethics and humanity. No one has the right to kill someone. Then how can a doctor, who is considered a life saver, guide his/her patient to euthanasia just to be free from incurable disease and distress? But if it is not legal, then there is no choice and the person has to live until he dies naturally and not just by the suggestion of a doctor or any family member, and the dignity and value of life remain.

DEFECTS OF LAW

Through this landmark judgement, the hon’ble supreme court made a way for passive euthanasia, but the law has some loopholes which show passive euthanasia as a tragedy for society. Some of its reasons are:

  1. First, there is no right to die. The only right we have is the right to live. It’s the God who gave us life and it’s our duty to save it rather than allow one person to kill another just because of some incurable disease. The legalisation of passive euthanasia directly affects the ambiguity of the relationship between a doctor and a patient.
  2. It is false mercy and compassion because the dignity of a human life is beyond materialistic things. And by allowing passive euthanasia, we are exterminating the person and not curing the disease. Anyone has no right to choose who should live and who should die. So, legalising it became a curse on society because it violated the dignity of everyone.
  3. By allowing passive euthanasia, we clearly show the failure of medical ethics because the doctor is known as a healer, but in the present case, the court allowed the physicians to suggest their patients who are suffering from incurable diseases adopt passive euthanasia. Also, when a person is suffering from such pain and distress, his/her mental state is not at such a level that they can make a choice between death and life, and it’s the doctor and the family members who choose death over life to free themselves from unnecessary burden. Also, it shows that in the modern world, we are allowing the right to die instead of finding a way to cure the disease.

INFERENCE

In this case, the hon’ble supreme court gave its 538-page long landmark verdict on the 9th of March 2018 and held that the right to life under article 21 of the constitution of India also includes the right to die with dignity and peacefully. Through this case, the court allowed passive euthanasia, which is also known as Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS), and stated that any person who is suffering from intolerable pain and incurable disease has the right to die by refusing medical treatment and by stopping life-saving devices. This judgement was laid down in the context of the judgement in the case of Gian Kaur.[1] In which this hon’ble supreme court has already declared that the right to die is a fundamental right, the same as the right to life. Also, the court clarifies that earlier in the Gian Kaur case, this court was not acquainted with the concept of passive euthanasia. Here in the present case, the court makes a clear distinction between active euthanasia and passive euthanasia. The former one includes overt action, while the latter one refers to the act of withdrawal of life-saving devices and stopping medical treatment on the request of the patient and advice of the physician that the disease is incurable. Moreover, the hon’ble court also discussed an individual’s autonomy, liberty, and dignity of choice by relating it with the right to privacy provided in the case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy.[2]

AUTHOR: BHARTI SHARMA

TRINITY INSTITUTE OF PROFESSIONAL STUDIES, DWARKA


[1] Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab, 1969, AIR 946, 1996 SCC (2) 648

[2] Justice K.S Puttswamy and Anr. Vs. Union of India (UOI) and Ors., (2017) 10 SCC 1, AIR 2017 SC 4161

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