INTRODUCTION- FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
The Constitution of India provides for six Fundamental Rights under Article 14 to 35, namely- Right to Equality (Article 14-18), Right to Freedom (Article 19-22), Right against Exploitation (Article 23-24), Right to Freedom of Religion (Article 25-28), Cultural & Educational Rights (Article 29 and 30) and Right to Constitutional Remedies (Article 32-35)
RIGHT TO DIE
The Supreme Court upheld the Fundamental Right to life and dignity including Right to refuse treatment and die with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court observed that the fundamental right to a “meaningful existence” includes a person’s choice to die without suffering. However, it held that active euthanasia was unlawful.
COMMON CAUSE (A REGISTERED SOCIETY) V. UNION OF INDIA – Right to die with dignity a fundamental right passive euthanasia and living will allow, guidelines issued, Supreme Court of India held that right to die with dignity is fundamental right. The Bench also held that passive euthanasia and a living will also legally valid. The court issued detailed guidelines in this regard. Moreover, the Bench held that the right to live with dignity also includes the smoothing of the process of dying in case of a terminally ill patient or a person in a persistent vegetative state with no hopes of recovery.
On March 9, 2018, the Supreme Court (SC) in a landmark judgement declared the right to die with dignity as a fundamental right and passed an order allowing End of Life Care (EOLC), passive euthanasia in common parlance, in the country.
WHAT IS A LIVING WILL?
Will means ‘Wasiyat’. It is a legal declaration of transfer of property by a person after his death. In other words, a will is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his or her estate and provides for distribution of his or her property at death.
A Living Will is a healthcare directive, in which people can state their wishes in advance for their end-of-life care, in case they are not in a position to make a decision. Any adult who is of sound and healthy mind can make a Living Will. It should be voluntarily executed and based on informed consent. It should be expressed in specific terms in language “absolutely clear and unambiguous”. The Living Will should contain the circumstances in which medical treatment should be withdrawn, including the name of the guardian or close relative who will give the go-ahead for starting the procedure of passive euthanasia. It should specify that the Will can be revoked any time and an individual has the right to withdraw or alter the Living Will, but only in writing. Hence, if there are more than one Living Will, the latest on will be taken into consideration and will be valid.
Every person must have the right to live happily; hence to die peacefully without going through extreme pain is also necessary. Right to die with dignity is equally important as that of any other rights. Therefore, in cases where there is no other option, it must be allowed.
Authored by- Nirzana Bnaikya, Guwahati, Assam.