Aditya Marwah
in Cyber Law
Asked September 07, 2013

Is Active or Passive Euthanasia allowed in India?

  • 1 Answer

Is Active or Passive Euthanasia allowed in India? Please give recent Supreme Court cases where the topic of Euthanasia has come before the court/s.

Answer 1

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Yes, Passive Euthanasia is permissible in exceptional circumstances, subject to the court's intervention, until there is a well-defined law on it. Recently, in Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug V. Union of India[1], the Supreme Court allowed passive euthanasia. The term “passive euthanasia” used by the Supreme Court in this case is defined as withdrawal of medical treatment with the deliberate intention of causing the patient’s death. E.g. withholding of antibiotics where without giving it a patient is likely to die, or removing the heart lung machine, from a patient in coma.  Supreme Court said that the doctors and nurses could withdraw life support to aid “passive euthanasia”. This is different from “active euthanasia” in which death is caused by the use of lethal substances or forces to kill a person e.g. a lethal injection given to a person with terminal cancer who is in terrible agony[2].

In the case of Gian Kaur V. State of Punjab[3]  it was stated that the exponent of Euthanasia is that the dying person who is in the persistent vegetative state (PVS) is not a benefit to the patient to terminate illness rather it is unrelated to the principle of sanctity of life or the right to live with dignity. The right to life including the right to live with human dignity would mean the existence of such a right up to the end of natural life. This also includes the right to a dignified life up to the point of death including a dignified procedure of death. In this case court held that there is no right to die (suicide) under Article 21[4] of the Constitution and attempt to suicide is a crime under Section 309 of Indian Penal Court, the court held that right to life includes right to live with human dignity, and in the case of dying person who is terminally ill or in a permanent vegetative state he may be permitted to terminate it by a premature extinction of his life in such a situation and it is not a crime.

It is argued in support of Euthanasia that permitting termination of life in such cases will reduce the period of suffering of the person but Article 21 doesn’t include the right to curtail the natural span of life. Though passive euthanasia is allowed in this case but there is a condition attached to it, wherein in a situation the patient is incompetent to say whether or not he consents to discontinuance of the treatment, then the decision has to be taken by the parent or the spouse or other close relative or in the absence of any of them, such a decision can be taken even by a person or a body of persons acting as a next friend.  It can also be taken by the doctors attending the patient.  However, the decision should be taken bona fide in the best interest of the patient.

[1] (2011) 4 SCC 454


[3] (1996) 2 SCC 648

[4] “Article 21”- Right to Life under Constitution of India 

Agree Comment 0 Agrees almost 9 years ago

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