Govt ready to frame law on passive euthanasia

Govt ready to frame law on passive euthanasia
The Union government has informed the Supreme Court that it was willing to frame a law on passive euthanasia but preferred to await the decision of the Constitution bench in this regard.

In an affidavit, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare submitted that an expert panel has deliberated and discussed between July 2014 and July 2015 on the issue of withdrawing medical treatment to the terminally-ill patient with an intention of allowing death. The committee favoured passing a law.

“Based on the recommendations of the expert committee, the Directorate General of Health Services has proposed formulation of legislation allowing ‘passive euthanasia’. The expert committee has also suggested certain changes in the draft bill. The committee has not consented to ‘active euthanasia’ since it has greater potential for misuse and as on date it is prevalent in very few countries worldwide,” the government said.

The Health Ministry, however, decided not to move ahead after consulting the Ministry of Law and Justice in view of the fact that a five-judge Constitution bench is likely to adjudicate on the issue. Notably, a Lok Sabha private member’s Bill – The Euthanasia (Regulation) Bill, 2002 – kickstarted the debate on the subject. But the government did not favour it as it may amount to intentional killing and go against the Hippocratic oath. The Law Commission, in its 196th report, favoured euthanasia and drafted the Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill, 2006.

The SC in 2011, in the case of Mumbai nurse Aruna Shanbaug, laid down guidelines for passive euthanasia. Later, another verdict on living will of the patient referred the matter to the Constitution bench.

The matter was again examined by the Law Commission, which in its 241st report in 2012 recommended a re-look at passive euthanasia. It finalised a new draft law titled “The Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill”.

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