Let me die in peace: Supreme Court’s Living Will Verdict

'He never starts surgery until he can play the game three times in a row without messing up.'

The Supreme Court of India has recently shed off its reservations of not trying to meddle with the right of an individual over their body, and has moved a level up since Aruna Shanbaug’s passive euthanasia plea was granted by Marakndey Katju.

The case of Aruna Shanbaug is one which may not have any parallels in the legal history of many countries. The woman was brutally raped, and she was living in a vegetative state, where she was attended to by the staff of the hospital she used to work for. Her family members seemingly gave up on her. The hospital, and the doctors used all kinds of biomedical apparatus to keep her alive.

It may also be very common to hear these days that someone close to us, or in our vicinity who was terminally ill, had been through a failed treatment was breathing their last breaths on a mechanical life support system known as the ventilator.

The rigours of the medical profession require the doctors to try out every possible set of physical as well as biological procedures on a human being who is faced with certain illness. The illness may never be cured but the medical fraternity will try all the possible combinations and in the absence of any sound form of consent, either on the part of the patient or the family of the patient, they may or usually do land up dissecting the body of the patient or impressing tubes and syringes in the body of the patient.

The pain and the trauma that follows, the feeling of being penetrated, and the self-pity is demeaning. The patient and their kin realise that the experimental procedures may not just save the person nearing the grave though there exists a halo around the heads of those trying to cure the man.

The Supreme Court, has acknowledged the right to live with dignity, yet there isn’t much that can be done to provide every Indian a dignified life. Yet, taking a step further the Supreme Court has made the death more dignified as it has acknowledged that there is a possibility that a patient may, while they are in pink of health, grant their consent to be withdrawn from all kinds of physical and chemical life support systems when a medical practitioner feels that there is no way ahead with the endless treatment being meted out to the patient.

This is another check to facilitate the passive euthanasia that Aruna Shanbaug gave us, and there is a long road to provide for active euthanasia to patients of diseases like alzhiemer’s and cancer.

The move is based on the right of an individual to die with dignity. Which implies that the individual may choose the warm and comfortable setting of his home over the grim setting of a hospital in his last days.

The procedural aspects have been laid down that the living will must be verified by a medical board, and must also have been upheld by a High Court. These provisions need to be there to prevent any abuse that may be caused by the human nature at play, and the one thing that was left out was, none of the doctors involved shall be held guilty for not being  able to deliver in the aforesaid event.

The move is worth the praise, and must be dealt with immediately by the Parliament, as it will be a boon for so many terminally ill patients, who live a life on the gallows.


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