Supreme Court makes passive euthanasia guidelines easier to implement


Dr Veena Aggarwal, Consultant Womens’ Health, CMD and Editor-in-Chief, IJCP Group & Medtalks Trustee, Dr KK’s Heart Care Foundation of India    26 January 2023

The Supreme Court had been hearing a petition to make the guidelines on passive euthanasia more workable and an order was expected this week. It was fortuitous that we covered this topic only yesterday.


On Tuesday, in a bid to streamline the steps of removal of life support from terminally ill patients, the Supreme Court modified its 2018 order on passive euthanasia. It has cut through the red tape and removed many bureaucratic obstacles in the process and simplified the rules for patients, their families as well as the doctors.


While it has retained the requirement of two medical boards, the second review board will also be constituted by the hospital where the patient is undergoing treatment and not the district collector as was mandated earlier in the rules. The review board will have a doctor nominated by the district medical officer. Earlier doctors with at least 20 years of experience were selected for the Medical Board. But now doctors with 5 years of experience can be included in the medical board.


Expectedly, the Apex Court has prescribed a time limit of 48 hours (preferably) for the boards to come to a decision in order to hasten the process and not delay it any more than required. The new order does not require the sanction of the judicial magistrate for withholding treatment or withdrawal of life support. The magistrate just needs to be informed.


The living will or advance directive had to be made in the presence of two witnesses who would attest the document which had to be then countersigned by the judicial magistrate. But now the living will can be attested by a notary or a gazetted officer.


(Source: The Times of India, Jan. 25, 2023)

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