Right to die with dignity has been recognised as a fundamental right by the, the Supreme Court of India in a landmark ruling legalising passive euthanasia.
A Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Kumar Misra, Justice AK Sikri, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan, passed the verdict on the plea to allow “living will” authorising the withdrawal of all life support systems if, the physicians attending the patient opine that the patient has reached an irreversible stage of terminal illness or a permanently vegetative state.
Guidelines have been laid down by the Court on who would execute the will and how nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by the medical board. Justice AK Sikri observed that even though religion, law, philosophy, morality, and society share conflicting opinions on the Fundamental Right to Life and if it includes the right to die as well, they all concur that a person should be able to die with dignity. Furthermore, he added that having a “living will” from the patient to stop medical treatment at a certain stage so as to say when he/she is brain dead or clinically dead, helps remove regret or guilt for relatives and criminal action against doctors.
In the broader ambit of right to life enshrined under Article 21 which is in pari material with Article 32 of our Constitution, a dignified life and life not of a vegetative human being was included already through numerous judicial decisions. However this time the question was whether right to life includes the right to meet a dignified death or not. And the top Court finally has answered the question in the affirmative.