NEW DELHI -- The Supreme Court yesterday refrained from passing an order on a plea to legalise passive euthanasia and the right of terminally-ill persons to execute 'Living Will' not to prolong their lives by putting them on life support systems and kept it open for the government to take a call on both the issues.
"The issues of passive euthanasia and Living Will is being considered by the government. However, we may clarify that the pendency of the petition should not come in the way of the authority to take a decision," a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Justice A R Dave said.
"We are not passing any order at this stage," the bench, also comprising Justices Kurian Joseph, Shiva Kirti Singh, A K Goel and R F Nariman, said while agreeing with the view of the Centre that the court should post the next hearing in July and till then allow a public debate to take place in the peoples' court, that is Parliament.
Additional Solicitor General P S Patwalia opposed the plea of NGO Common Cause and its advocate Prashant Bhushan that the court should consider and pass an order at least on the limited issue of Living Will, till a legislation is enacted.
He submitted that since the Health Ministry was examining the Law Commission report after which a Bill would be drafted by the Law Ministry, the apex court should defer the hearing and wait till July for the debate to take place.
When the bench asked Bhushan, "do you want court's verdict or the people's verdict on it," he said the issue of Living Will is not the subject of parliamentary debate as it concerns the fundamental right to life guaranteed under the Constitution which also covers the right to die with dignity.
However, the bench was of the view that "it is something which should be debated in peoples' court, i.e Parliament."
As Bhushan argued for consideration of the limited issue of Living Will saying that it is given by the terminally-ill persons of sound mind, the bench asked, "would it not be a case where you are permitting a miracle to happen?"
During the hearing, the ASG gave an example of former Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher, who is in coma for over two years, saying that his family members are hoping that medical science has developed and he will return to normalcy and are against withdrawing life support system.
A doctor-turned-advocate, who has sought intervention in the matter, said the issue concerning euthanasia is very sensitive and has to be deliberated in a careful manner.
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