Common Cause (A Regd. Society) vs Union of India - Supreme Court Important Judgment

 Common Cause (A Regd. Society) v. Union of India - Supreme Court Important Judgment 2018 - 


On 9th March, 2018, in the case of Common Cause (A Regd. Society) v. Union of India and Another [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 215 of 2015], a five Judge Constitution Bench “laid down the principles relating to the procedure for execution of Advance Directive and provided the guidelines to give effect to passive euthanasia in both circumstances, namely, where there are advance directives and where there are none, in exercise of the power under Article 142 of the Constitution” and the law stated in Vishaka and Others v. State of Rajasthan and Others, (1997) 6 SCC 241. It was held that “the directive and guidelines shall remain in force till the Parliament brings a legislation in the field.”


It was held that “there is an inherent difference between active euthanasia and passive euthanasia as the former entails a positive affirmative act, while the latter relates to withdrawal of life support measures or withholding of medical treatment meant for artificially prolonging life.” The Bench held that “a competent person who has come of age has the right to refuse specific treatment or all treatment or opt for an alternative treatment, even if such decision entails a risk of death. The ‘Emergency Principle’ or the ‘Principle of Necessity’ has to be given effect to only when it is not practicable to obtain the patient’s consent for treatment and his/her life is in danger. But where a patient has already made a valid Advance Directive which is free from reasonable doubt and specifying that he/she does not wish to be treated, then such directive has to be given effect to.”


It was held that the “right to life and liberty as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution is meaningless unless it encompasses within its sphere individual dignity. With the passage of time, this Court has expanded the spectrum of Article 21 to include within it the right to live with dignity as component of right to life and liberty.” “The right to live with dignity also includes the smoothening of the process of dying in case of a terminally ill patient or a person” in persistent vegetative state (PVS) “with no hope of recovery.”


The Bench held that “a failure to legally recognize advance medical directives may amount to non-facilitation of the right to smoothen the dying process and the right to live with dignity.” “Though the sanctity of life has to be kept on the high pedestal yet in cases of terminally ill persons or PVS patients where there is no hope for revival, priority shall be given to the Advance Directive and the right of self-determination.” It was however clarified that “in the absence of Advance Directive, the procedure provided for the said category” shall be applicable. It was held that “when passive euthanasia as a situational palliative measure becomes applicable, the best interest of the patient shall override the State interest.”

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