Common cause v. Union of India: Making way for Passive Euthanasia

Introduction:

The Supreme Court acknowledged and sanctioned passive euthanasia and living wills in Common Cause v. Union of India[i], a historic judgment. The right to die with dignity is a fundamental right. Only passive euthanasia, not active euthanasia, is permitted. Passive euthanasia refers to withholding medical treatment from a patient that is essential to keep them alive, such as disconnecting a coma patient’s heart-lung machine. A living will is a written document that outlines the patient’s instructions for his or her medical treatment in advance. When he is terminally sick or no longer capable of giving informed consent, this document shall be examined. It comprises the patient’s consent to allow his or her family to turn off life support if the medical board determines that they are no longer medically helpable.

Facts:

Common Cause, a recognized association for the common benefit of the people, filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution to legalize passive euthanasia and living wills. Common Cause submitted many letters on passive euthanasia to the Ministry of Law and Justice and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare before filing this PIL. After receiving no response from the government, the petitioner filed the current PIL. The petitioner’s major argument is that the Indian Constitution grants everyone the right to live with dignity till death, and that this right should be extended to the right to die with dignity. Furthermore, there are situations when a person who has been entirely reliant on medical assistance for a long period causes the patient and his family anxiety and anguish. The petitioner also asked for the legalization of living wills, in which a patient can write about his or her medical treatment and authorize the family to refuse it.

Issues:

  • Whether the article of the Consitution which provide for right to life include right to die?
  • Whether passive euthanasia on a patient’s will to die should be permitted?
  • Whether active euthanasia and passive euthanasia are different?
  • Whether a person has the right to refuse medical care, including the removal of life-supporting devices?

Judgment of the case:

The Supreme Court of India ruled in this case that an individual has the right to die with dignity as part of his or her right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. As a result of this ruling, life-support systems for terminally ill or incurable comas must be phased out.The court also recognized the importance of establishing a will to live and permitted individuals to choose whether or not to use an artificial life support system. The right to die with dignity was pulled from the matrix of privacy, autonomy, and dignity within the guarantee provided for in Article 21 as described by the Apex Court’s nine-judge bench in Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr. v. Union Of India. It maintained a person’s right to make “advance directives and attorney’s authorizations” to allow the withdrawal of useless treatment or life-support equipment if they are able to consent.  In addition, the Bench issued instructions to prevent any potential abuse of the directives and to specify how they should be administered in order to maintain a balance between law and bioethics. The Court made various recommendations about the protocol for implementing Advance Directives, as well as the conditions for passive euthanasia to take effect.

Case Comment:

Passive euthanasia is a contentious notion that poses a slew of complex moral, ethical, social, philosophical, legal, and religious issues. When it comes to passive euthanasia, there are two distinct factions. The first is a regional sect that believes life is a divine gift and does not believe there is a right to die. The second one has to do with the consent requirement. It is frequently questioned whether terminally ill patients are capable of giving informed consent for their own death. As a result, there have been numerous euthanasia campaigns in the past, some in support of the practice and others in opposition. However, legislation supporting euthanasia have been enacted, taking into account the interests of people.

As a result, this is an appropriate decision. Chronic disease patients are frequently subjected to excruciating pain and suffering, as well as therapies in which there is no cure and only medication and treatment that extends life. Denying them the right to a dignified death prolongs their agony. As a result, the court is correct in proclaiming the Right to Die with Dignity as a Fundamental Right because it will help to alleviate the difficulties of those who are undergoing chronic treatments and will allow them to die in a dignified manner.

References:

  1. Indian Legal Solution, Common Cause V. Union of India (2018): Case Comment, Indian Legal Solution, https://indianlegalsolution.com/common-cause-v-union-of-india-2018-case-comment/
  2. Siddhant Tiwari, Common Cause vs. Union of India [Passive Euthanasia]: Case Analysis, Our legal world, https://www.ourlegalworld.com/common-cause-vs-union-of-india-passive-euthanasia-case-analysis/

[i] Common cause v. Union of India, Writ petition (Civil) No. 215 of 2005.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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