• Centre asks public opinion on draft bill for euthanasia

    May 16, 2016

    The Union government in Mumbai after all these years of fighting it out and going through the tedious court room proceedings has now popped up with a draft bill on passive euthanasia that will give the patients the right to “withhold or withdraw medical treat to herself or himself” and “allow nature to take its own course”. In the past week the draft was uploaded by the Union health ministry on its website and encouraged comments, via E-mail from people all over before 19th of June 2016. The title for the draft was ‘Terminally Ill Patients (protection of patients and medical practitioners) Bill.  This draft is essentially for protecting the patients and doctors from any kind of liability for withholding or withdrawing medical treatment and states that palliative care which is pain management can go on.

    On the contrary experts felt disappointed by the draft as they wanted clarity on the living will concept which the draft was unable to provide them. The living will is basically defined as “a document in which a person states his/her desire to have or not to have extraordinary life-prolonging measures when recovery is not possible for his/her terminal condition.” The draft bill in its eleventh paragraph clears states that any “advance medical directive (living will) or medical power of attorney executed by the person shall be void and of no effect and shall not be binding on any medical practitioner.”

    The draft laid a few norms for proceeding with euthanasia, beginning from the medical team’s composition and going on to the High Court to seek permission. The Union Government in January this year stated at the Supreme Court that it was on the verge of framing a legislation permitting passive euthanasia in. This was absolutely contrary after the several years of refusals made by them. The next hearing is set for the last week of July.

    The Bill Protects medical practitioners from any kind of legal guilt and provides them freedom to go ahead with palliative care (pain care). “Every competent patient, including minors aged above 16 years, has a right to take a decision and express the desire to the medical practitioner attending on her or him,” states the draft bill which was uploaded on the ministry’s website.

    A neurologist from Hiduja Hospital in Mahim, Mumbai named, Dr. Roop Gursahani who has been a member of the Supreme Court- appointed panel to assess KEM nurse Aruna Shanbaug’s Health status in 2010-2011 sated categorically, “We welcome the move, but we would like to see a more comprehensive end-of-life care legislation.” He added to this by saying that the ministry gave a “positive start” by the circular.

    Another Bengaluru based President of the Indian Association of Palliative Care said, “The world over, the term ‘passive euthanasia’ has been consigned to history books. Euthanasia stands for good death, and we should discuss it in great detail.” He mentioned that the nation should work for evolving a mechanism like brain death certification to check the patient’s euthanasia plea. Lastly, a doctor said that the bill has missed out a point: “It deals with legal details, but doesn’t guide the doctor about how to handle a 90-year- plus patient with terminal complications from cancer or a patient suffering a third stroke. Should the doctor concerned take a chance by starting the treatment or not offer a treatment at all?”



    Of course, the bill which has been drafted is refreshing and a great start for the patients and medical practitioners. Euthanasia should be incorporated in the system so that patients living on life support do not have to suffer more. Though it must be permitted for terminally ill patients whose treatments have failed and there must be provisions that ensure that this is not misused by anyone. Euthanasia is a debatable topic as it will have two sects of people one who are against it and others who support it thus it should be treated with the utmost care and giving euthanasia must be upon the patients’ discretion. Living will is also something very positive and must be encouraged. 

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