New Delhi, January 24
Modifying its guidelines on “living will”, the Supreme Court on Tuesday did away with the requirement of a magistrate’s approval for withdrawal or withholding of life support to a terminally ill person.
“Living will” is an advance medical directive on end-of-life treatment recognised by the Supreme Court. Acting on a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause, the Supreme Court had in 2018 recognised the right to die with dignity as a fundamental right and an aspect of Article 21 (right to life). “The directive and guidelines shall remain in force till Parliament brings a legislation in the field,” it had said.
However, people wanting to get a “living will” registered were facing problems due to cumbersome guidelines as itneeded to be signed by the person making the will in the presence of two witnesses and a judicial magistrate of first class. On Tuesday, a five-judge Constitution Bench led by Justice KM Joseph said now a “living will” had to be signed by the executor in the presence of two attesting witnesses, preferably independent ones, and attested before a notary or a gazetted officer. The modification is expected to make the guidelines less cumbersome.
“The witnesses and the notary shall record their satisfaction that the document has been executed voluntarily and without any coercion or inducement or compulsion and with full understanding of all the relevant information and consequences,” said the Bench, which also included Justice Ajay Rastogi, Justice Aniruddha Bose, Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice CT Ravikumar.
It agreed to the suggestion that the executor shall inform and hand over a copy of the advance directive to the family physician, if any. In the event of the executor becoming terminally ill and undergoing prolonged medical treatment with no hope of recovery, the treating physician, when made aware about the Advance Directive (living will), shall ascertain the genuineness and authenticity of the document.
The top court had earlier expressed displeasure over the government not introducing a law on passive euthanasia, saying it was abdicating its legislative responsibility and passing the buck.
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