W.P.(C) 215/2005

Euthanasia, Living Wills, & the Right to Die

Case Description

This case will decide whether Article 21 of the Constitution granting the right to life with dignity takes within its purview a right to die with dignity by means of executing a living will.

Background

In 2002, Common Cause, a registered society and the petitioner in the present case had written to the Ministry of Law & Justice in addition to the Ministry of Health & Family welfare and the Ministry of Company Affairs, also addressing the State Governments on the issue of the right to die with dignity and the need for legislation authorising execution of living wills.

The Petitioner then approached the Supreme Court in 2005 praying for the declaration that the right to die with dignity is a fundamental right within the fold of Article 21 of the Constitution that secures for each individual a right to life with dignity. The petitioner further prayed for directions to the Union Government to adopt procedures deemed suitable for ensuring that terminally ill persons may be allowed to execute “living wills” for appropriate action in the event that they  are admitted to the hospitals, doing so in consultation with the State governments wherever necessary. In the alternative, the petitioner sought for issuance of guidelines to the aforesaid effect and the appointment of an expert committee with lawyers, doctors and social scientists to determine the aspect of executing living wills.

The contention of the petitioner society is that terminally ill persons or those suffering from chronic diseases must not be subjected to cruel treatments and denying them the right to die in a dignified manners leads to an extension of their suffering by attempts to artificially prolong their life span. By allowing such persons to make an informed choice well in time by means of  a living will, the petitioner aims to secure for them a right to die with dignity.

In view of the inconsistent opinions of the Supreme Court in Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union Of India & Ors (2011) and Gian Kaur vs State of Punjab (1996), vide order dated 25.02.2014, a 3 Judge Bench of the supreme Court comprising of Chief Justice P. Sathasiavn, and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Shiva Kirti Singh had referred the matter to a larger bench.

The 5 Judge Bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A. M. Khanvilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan will now decide the question posed by the petitioner.


Issues

  1. Whether Article 21 of the Constitution which guarantees the Right to Life, takes within its fold the Right to Die?
  2. Whether there exists a distinction between active and passive euthanasia?

Resources

Latest Hearing


Judgment Pending

Arguments conclude. Judgement reserved.



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