The Supreme Court in order to make the guidelines of “living will” more workable, on Tuesday modified its earlier order and removed the condition that mandated a magistrate’s approval for withdrawal or withholding of life support to a terminally ill.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice KM Joseph said the document will now be signed by the executor of the “living will” in the presence of two attesting witnesses, preferably independent, and attested before a notary or Gazetted Officer.
The bench also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and Justice CT Ravikumar said the witnesses and the notary shall record their satisfaction that the document has been executed voluntarily and without any coercion or inducement or compulsion and with a full understanding of all the relevant information and consequences.
It agreed to modify its 2018 guidelines on “living will”, an advance medical directive on end-of-life treatment.
During the previous hearing, the bench said it will limit itself to improving the guidelines it had laid down on “living will”.
There can only be a little tweaking of the guidelines or else it will become a review of its own 2018 judgement, it has said.
The top court was informed that the procedure under the Supreme Court guidelines had become unworkable due to the involvement of multiple stakeholders in the process.
The Constitution bench was considering a plea seeking modification of the guidelines for living will/advance medical directive issued by it in 2018.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar has told the bench that as per the Supreme court’s directions, a medical board has to first declare that the patient has no scope of recovery or is brain dead.
Datar has suggested in a living will, there can be two witnesses and the role of the judicial magistrate can be done away with.
On March 9, 2018, the top court had in its judgment recognised that a terminally ill patient or a person in a persistent vegetative state may execute an advance medical directive or a “living will” to refuse medical treatment, holding the right to live with dignity also included “smoothening” the process of dying.
The judgement of the top court had come on a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause seeking recognition of the “living will” made by terminally-ill patients for passive euthanasia.
The top court had laid down principles related to the procedure for execution of advance directives and spelt out guidelines and safeguards to give effect to passive euthanasia in both circumstances where there are advance directives and where there are none.
It had said that directives and guidelines shall remain in force till Parliament brings legislation in the field.
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