In India, “living wills” pave the way to passive euthanasia

Publié le 27 Mar, 2018

The Indian Supreme Court has just authorised the drafting of a “living will”, which legalises passive euthanasia[1]. In fact, in these wills, patients can outline end-of-life choices with specific reference to the withdrawal of any treatment they deem inappropriate, “in order to let themselves die”.


These conditions apply to the terminally ill “with no hope of cure, who find themselves in an irreversible coma” or “persistent” vegetative state. The Court held that these wills were essential to put an end to “social pressures” and dispel “the fear of criminal proceedings for doctors and families who could face homicide charges”. These pressures often lead “to medical intervention with an “undignified” death for patients”.


In practice, it will be difficult for courts to prove that patients have not been coerced into drafting the “living wills”.


As far back as 2011, the country’s Supreme Court authorised euthanasia for certain patients with no hope of a cure (see India: euthanasia authorised in certain cases), under the supervision of the High Court.


The Indian Government “is opposed to euthanasia under advance directives. It is afraid that, when signing consent forms, patients are not necessarily aware of current medical advances that might cure them one day”. However, the Court has already “devised recommendations” with a view to applying this “right”. Any refusal from a Medical Board to comply with a ‘living will’ “could lead to a Court case”.


Active requests for euthanasia and intentional assisted suicide are rejected “by the courts and the authorities”.


[1] Euthanasia is classed as passive when a patient dies because health professionals have not carried out an essential procedure to keep the patient alive or when they stop doing something that sustains life.

BBC (09/03/2018) – Institiut Européen de Bioéthique (13/03/2018)

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