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SC Allows ‘Living Will’ Of Terminally Ill Persons

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Supreme Court of India.
  • SC allows living will for the terminally ill patients
  • SC says the person has ‘right to die with dignity’
  • In a living will, a  person can choose not to prolong his or her life using artificial means

The Supreme Court on Friday said a person has the “right to die with dignity” and can make an advance “living will” authorising the withdrawal of life support system if in medical view he has reached an irreversible stage of terminal illness.

While allowing a person to make the advance directive or living will, a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, however, attached strict conditions for executing the “will” made by a person in his normal state of health and mind.

Supreme court give terminally ill patients the 'living will''
Supreme court give terminally ill patients the ‘living will”

In the living will, a person can state in advance that his or her life should not be prolonged with a ventilator or artificial support system. The bench, also including judges A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, laid down guidelines on who would execute the will and how the nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by the medical board.

Recognising the “right to die with dignity”, the court permitted a person to draft in advance a living will in case she/he slips into an incurable condition. “To deprive an individual of dignity at the end of life is to deprive him of meaningful existence,” said Justice Chandrachud while allowing the living will for passive euthanasia.

Also Read: Ethical Dispute Erupts Over Euthanasia Rules

The court said the life support can be removed only after the statutory medical board declares the patient to be incurable. The bench said its guidelines and directives should remain in force till a legislation was brought to deal with the issue.

“Life and death are inseparable. Bodies involve continuous change but mind remains constant… Death represents culmination of life… Freedom, liberty are core of meaningful life,” Justice Chandrachud said. The court pronounced four separate but concurring judgements.

The person will have right to not prolong his or her by using artificial means. Wikimedia Commons
The person will have right to not prolong his or her by using artificial means. Wikimedia Commons

The court’s verdict came on a plea filed in 2005 by an NGO Common Cause seeking the right to make a living will authorising the withdrawal of life support system in the event of the will-makers reaching an irreversible vegetative state.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, had said that since a patient under coma cannot express his/her wish, law should allow him/her to put it down in writing in advance that he/she should not be tortured. In the absence of a law authorising doctors to do so, they keep incurable patients on life support, he said. IANS

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Supreme Court Expresses Concern For Not Providing Protective Gear To Workers

The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed concern over existence of untouchability and caste discrimination despite 70 years of Independence

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Sewer, Workers, Untouchable, SC, India
Justice Arun Mishra criticised the governments and said that caste discrimination, unfortunately, continues to prevail in society. Wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed concern over existence of untouchability and caste discrimination despite 70 years of Independence and pulled up the Centre and state governments for not providing protective gear to such workers.

“Untouchability was abolished, but this is a question before everyone: do you even shake hands with manual scavengers,” the court asked, pointing out that untouchability is still being practised.

The court’s remarks came while hearing the Centre’s plea seeking the recall of a 2018 judgement which virtually diluted the stringent provisions of immediate arrest and denial of anticipatory bail to the accused on a complaint filed under the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra criticised the governments and said that caste discrimination, unfortunately, continues to prevail in society even after 70 years of Independence.

Observing that caste discrimination continues to exist in society and criticising the deaths of people while involved in cleaning places like manholes and drains, the Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the Centre and state governments for not providing protective gear to such workers.

Sewer, Workers, Untouchable, SC, India
Despite 70 years of Independence and pulled up the Centre and state governments for not providing protective gear to such workers. Wikimedia Commons

Expressing concern on the issue, the apex court said that nowhere else in the world are people sent to die into gas chambers, referring to the recent deaths in different municipalities of cleaners who had descended for cleaning blocked sewer drains.

The bench also said that it is the “most uncivilised and inhuman situation where people involved in manual scavenging are dying every day and no protective gears are provided to them and no action is taken against the authorities.”

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal said that no law of tort, which deals with civil wrong and its liabilities thereof, has been developed in the country.The court also noted that there is no law of tort being practiced in India.

“What have you done for manual scavenging? In no other country, people enter manholes without protective gears. What have you done about it?,” the bench asked. “All humans are equal, and when they are equal, you should provide them equal opportunities,” the court said, adding the governments are not even providing such workers an equal chance and basic facilities to clean themselves.

Sewer, Workers, Untouchable, SC, India
Most uncivilised and inhuman situation where people involved in manual scavenging are dying every day and no protective gears are provided to them and no action is taken against the authorities. Wikimedia Commons

The bench, meanwhile, reserved order on the Centre’s plea seeking recall of its 2018 judgment, the case it was hearing originally. The apex court also asked the parties to submit their written submissions and said that the batch of petitions challenging the Amendment to the Act will be heard separately, next week. The Supreme Court on Friday had referred the Centre’s plea on the 2018 judgment to a larger bench.

The Centre had stated that the judgment diluting the stringent provision of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act had “seriously affected the morale of these communities and the confidence in the ability of the state to protect them”.

ALSO READ: Himachal Pradesh Aiming to Achieve 100% Transition to Electric Vehicles by 2030

The apex court in its March 20 judgement had said: “…in absence of any other independent offence calling for arrest, in respect of offences under the Atrocities Act, no arrest may be effected without the permission of appointing authority in case of public servant or that of Senior Superintendent of Police in case of general public”.

The court had said it was providing the safeguard “in view of acknowledged abuse of law of arrest” under the Act. “It’s necessary to express concern that working of the Atrocities Act should not result in perpetuating casteism, which can have an adverse impact on integration of the society and the constitutional values,” it said. (IANS)