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High Court judge becomes first in Goa to register ‘living will’

Why it is in the news?

  • Justice M S Sonak, who serves on the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court, on Friday became the first person in Goa to register a “living will” – an advance medical directive for his family for when he cannot make his own decisions.
Ø  A “living will” is a person’s advance directive outlining desired medical care for individuals unable to make decisions due to terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness.

Ø  It includes preferences on treatments like dialysis, breathing or feeding tubes, and CPR, but laws governing them vary among US states and not every state may allow them.

Ø  Even with a living will, it’s impossible to create a foolproof provision without involvement from doctors or immediate decision-makers.

More about the news:

  • The Supreme Court had in 2018 legalised passive euthanasia ruling in Aruna Shanbaug case, contingent upon the person having a “living will”, or a written document that specifies the actions to be taken if the person is unable to make their own medical decisions in the future.
  • The court specifically stated that “Dignity in the process of dying is as much a part of the right to life under Article 21.
  • The Supreme Court had allowed passive euthanasia while recognising the living wills of terminally-ill patients who could go into a permanent vegetative state and issued guidelines regulating the procedure.
  • In 2023, the Supreme Court eased the process for passive euthanasia by changing certain existing guidelines for living wills.
  • Goa is the first state that has formalised, to some extent, the implementation of directives issued by the Supreme Court.         

About Euthanasia:

  • Euthanasia is the act of deliberately ending a person’s life to eliminate pain or suffering.
  • Ethicists differentiate between active and passive euthanasia:
  • Active euthanasia
  • also termed assisted suicide, involves a physician intentionally ending the life of an incurably or terminally ill patient through actions such as administering lethal drugs like injections or medication overdoses.
  • There are three types of active euthanasia, in relation to giving consent for euthanasia, namely –
  • Voluntary euthanasia – at patient request,
  • Nonvoluntary – without patient consent,
  • Involuntary euthanasia – patient is not in a position to give consent.
  • In India, active euthanasia is considered illegal.
  • Attempting suicide falls under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), while abetting suicide is addressed in Section 306, with both actions punishable by law.
  • Passive euthanasia –
  • This act involves intentionally allowing a patient to die by withholding or withdrawing artificial life support, like ventilators or feeding tubes, and not providing treatment with the intention of enabling a natural death.
  • It is legally permissible in certain countries, including India, under specific conditions and with appropriate consent.


Various countries have different approaches to euthanasia and assisted suicide:

  • Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium permit both euthanasia and assisted suicide for individuals experiencing unbearable suffering without hope of improvement.
  • Switzerland prohibits euthanasia but allows assisted dying under medical supervision.
  • Canada’s plan to legalize euthanasia and assisted dying for mentally ill patients by March 2023 faces criticism and potential delays.
  • In the United States, euthanasia laws vary by state, with states like Washington, Oregon, and Montana allowing it under certain conditions.


Arguments for Euthanasia

  • Euthanasia alleviates extreme pain and suffering, offering relief to terminally ill individuals facing a lingering death.
  • It respects a person’s autonomy and fundamental right to choose a dignified end to their life.
  • In resource-constrained settings like India, limited medical resources could be redirected towards patients who have a chance of recovery.
  • Article 21 of the Indian Constitution emphasizes the right to a dignified life, including the option of a dignified death.
  • Euthanasia addresses not only the physical pain of patients but also the mental anguish of their loved ones, with the intention to provide assistance rather than harm.


Concerns Regarding Euthanasia:

  • Medical ethics advocate for healing rather than ending a patient’s life, especially with advancements in medical science offering hope for previously incurable diseases.
  • Ethically, taking a life is deemed morally wrong, emphasizing the inherent value of life.
  • Legalizing euthanasia could make vulnerable individuals, such as the disabled, feel pressured to opt for it, viewing themselves as burdens on society.
  • Distinguishing between suicide and euthanasia can be challenging, as both involve a loss of hope, but proper care and support can mitigate such tendencies.

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