Passive Euthanasia and Living Will are permissible: Supreme Court



  • GS Prelims, GS Mains paper II, IV
  • Ethics, governance, Passive Euthanasia, Living Will, ethical issues associated with euthanasia.
  • “Right to dignity includes right to refuse treatment and die with dignity”.


  • The Supreme Court declared passive euthanasia and the right of persons, including the terminally-ill, to give advance directives (Living Will) to refuse medical treatment permissible.
  • A Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, upheld that the fundamental right to life and dignity includes “right to refuse treatment” and “die with dignity”.

What is Passive euthanasia?

  • A condition where there is the withdrawal of medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten the death of a terminally-ill patient is termed as passive euthanasia.
  • However, active euthanasia is an intentional act of causing the death of a patient in great suffering. As per the judgment, Active euthanasia is unlawful.

What is a Living will?

  • A living will is a written document that allows a person to give explicit instructions in advance about the medical treatment to be administered when he or she is terminally ill or no longer able to express informed consent.

About the Right to Die:

  • Right to die peacefully is part of Fundamental Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • Article 21 provides that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”.

Details of the Judgment:

  • The court upheld that fundamental right to a “meaningful existence” includes a person’s choice to die without suffering.
  • The Court indidcated how societal pressure and fear of criminal liability by relatives and medical doctors ultimately led to the suffering and the undignified death of the patient.
  • The court said it was time to dispense with such shared suffering and sense of guilt and face reality.
  • Doctors who attend the terminally-ill are under pressure and dither in letting the patient go, apprehending criminal liability and fear of being drawn into the “vortex” of a possible family struggle for inheritance.
  • The apex court issued guideline and directives: The apex court added that its guidelines and directives shall remain in force till a legislation is brought to deal with the issue.
  • The Chief Justice’s judgment includes specific guidelines to test the validity of a living will, by whom it should be certified, when and how it should come into effect, etc.
  • The guidelines also cover a situation where there is no living will and how to approach a plea for passive euthanasia.
  • About religion, morality, philosophy and law: Justice A.K. Sikri, in his separate opinion, said though religion, morality, philosophy, law and society share equally strong and conflicting opinions about whether right to life includes right to death, they all agree that a person should die with dignity.
  • Justice Chandrachud said the issue of death and when to die transcends the boundaries of law, but the court has intervened because it also concerns the liberty and autonomy of the individual.


Passive Euthanasia and Living Will are permissible: Supreme Court Passive Euthanasia and Living Will are permissible: Supreme Court Passive Euthanasia and Living Will are permissible: Supreme Court Passive Euthanasia and Living Will are permissible: Supreme Court Passive Euthanasia and Living Will are permissible: Supreme Court


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