India’s Drafting Bill on Passive Euthanasia – A Closer Analysis

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The debates on euthanasia were further fueled after the central government brought out a draft bill proposing the legalization of passive euthanasia. The government should take any further step only after a round of public suggestions on the matter.

What this bill proposes is that a patient who is terminally ill and is above the age of 16 years can voluntarily decide to be treated further or follow the will of nature by letting go of the treatment.

The bill that has been put on the central website of the Health Ministry reads out, “Every competent patient, including minors aged above 16 years, has a right to take a decision and express the desire to the medical practitioner attending on her or him.”

It also gives proper relief to patients and frees doctors from any liability for withdrawing the treatment and suggests that care for pain management can be continued.

The main features of the draft bill can be stated as follows:

At any time, a patient can take his decision to opt for passive euthanasia and tell his doctor to discontinue any further treatment. Such decision should be binding on him. Though, there are other provisions in which the doctor will have his say such as he should be content with the terminal stage of illness of the patient, further he should also ensure that such decisions are made freely by the patient.

All details regarding the patient need to be kept by the medical practitioner and his duty is to make him aware of it as to assist in the decision making. He can further advise him or her on the matters of withdrawal or continuation of his treatment. If he is in a paralyzed state or in a coma, the family of the patient needs to be informed. If there is no family, then the regular visitor to the patient needs to be informed.

To decide the medical condition of the patient there shall be a panel of medical expertise.

  • The bill also states the procedure for euthanasia, comprising the procedure for forming the medical team to seeking the permission from High Court.
  • The unique feature of the bill is that it only legalizes passive euthanasia and discards any other form of it, with respect to an earlier judgment regarding a nurse named Aruna Shahbag. Active euthanasia has been discarded under this draft bill which generally involves injecting one ill person with a lethal substance to end suffering. The reason given to do so is to prevent unethical and immoral people to achieve their concealed motives.
  • People had different takes on this matter. While some welcomed this draft Bill, the others didn’t agree with it. Experts demanded a more comprehensible approach to the concept of a living will.

The bill has now been kept aside for a while and updates on it are expected in the near future. Whether it becomes a law or not, the fact that people shall always be divided on the concept of life and death is certain. The whole course of this Draft Bill will witness a lot of hot, political, moral and ethical debate on euthanasia.”

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