Editorial : 10-03-2018

Death with dignity: on SC’s verdict on euthanasia and living wills

The core philosophy underlying the Supreme Court’s verdict(निर्णय) allowing passive euthanasia(इच्छामृत्यु) and giving legal status to ‘advance directives(आदेश/हिदायत)’ is that the right to a dignified(अभिमानी/आलीशान) life extends up to the point of having a dignified death. In four concurring(मेल खाना) opinions, the five-member Constitution Bench grappled(जूझ रहा/पकड़ना)with a question that involved, in the words of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, “finding substance and balance in the relationship between life, morality and the experience of dying”. The outcome of the exercise is a
progressive and humane verdict(मानवीय फैसले) that lays down a broad legal framework for protecting the dignity(गौरव/प्रतिष्ठा) of a terminally(अंतिम छोर से) ill patient or one in a persistent vegetative state(सदैव शिथिल अवस्था) (PVS) with no hope of cure or recovery. For, in such circumstances(परिस्थिति/हालत), “accelerating(तेज/गतिवर्धक) the process of death for reducing(कमी/छूट) the period of suffering constitutes a right to live with dignity”. The core message is that all adults with the capacity to give consent “have the right of self determination(निर्धारण/दृढ़ संकल्प) and autonomy(स्वत्व अधिकार)”, and the right to refuse medical treatment is also encompassed(रखना/धरना) in it. Passive euthanasia was recognized by a two-judge Bench in Aruna Shanbaug in 2011; now the Constitution Bench has expanded the jurisprudence(न्यायशास्र/धर्मशास्त्र) on the subject by adding to it the principle of a ‘living will’, or an advance directive, a practice whereby a person, while in a competent state of mind, leaves written instructions on the sort of medical treatment that may or may not be administered(प्रशासित/प्रबंधित) in the event of her reaching a stage of terminal illness.
Passive euthanasia essentially involves withdrawal of life support or discontinuation(बाधा/विराम) of life-preserving medical treatment so that a person with a terminal illness is allowed to die in the natural course. The court’s reasoning is unexceptionable(बिना अपवाद/निर्दोष) when it says burdening a dying patient with life-prolonging(जीवन समय को बढ़ाने)treatment and equipment(उपकरण/सामग्री) merely(सादे तौर पर/केवल ) because medical technology has advanced would be destructive(हानिकारक) of her dignity. In such a situation, “individual interest has to be given priority over the state interest”. The court has invoked its inherent(अंतर्निहित/जन्मजात) power under Article 142 of the Constitution to grant legal status to advance directives, and its directives will hold good until Parliament enacts legislation(क़ानून/विधान) on the matter. The government submitted that it was in the process of introducing a law to regulate passive euthanasia, but opposed the concept of advance directive on the ground that it was liable(उत्तरदायी/जिम्मेदार) to be misused. The stringent conditions imposed by the court regarding advance directives are intended to serve as a set of robust(मजबूत/ठोस) safeguards and allay any apprehensions(आशंकाओं/हिरासत) about misuse. The court is justified in concluding that advance directives will strengthen the will of the treating doctors by assuring them that they are acting lawfully in respecting the patient’s wishes. An advance directive, after all, only reflects(दर्शाता है/प्रतिबिंब डालना) the patient’s autonomy and does not amount to a recognition(अभिज्ञान/पहचान) of a wish to die.

Important Vocabulary
Synonyms: courtly, distinguished, formal, grand, magnificent
Antonyms: bad, common, ignoble, informal, insignificant
Synonyms: decency, decorum, grace, grandeur, greatness
Antonyms: dishonor, evil, immorality, indecency, insignificance
Synonyms: advance, expedite, further, hasten, open up
Antonyms: block, cease, check, delay, discourage
Synonyms: assurance, boldness, bravery, conviction, courage
Antonyms: cowardice, diffidence, fear, idleness, indecision
5.Autonomy(स्वत्व अधिकार)”
Synonyms: freedom, self-government, self-rule, sovereignty, liberty
Antonyms: dependence
6.Merely(सादे तौर पर/केवल )
Synonyms: hardly, only, purely, simply, solely
Antonyms: indefinitely
Synonyms: built-in, constitutional, deep-rooted, deep-seated, essential
Antonyms: acquired, auxiliary, extra, extrinsic, learned
Synonyms: booming, hearty, hefty, potent, powerful
Antonyms: fragile, impotent, incapable, ineffective, lethargic
Synonyms: alarm, disquiet, doubt, dread, foreboding
Antonyms: belief, calm, calmness, certainty, confidence
Synonyms: accountable, amenable, bound, chargeable, obligated
Antonyms: irresponsible, unaccountable, excusable, freed, immune
Synonyms: break, cessation, conclusion, cutoff, discontinuance
Antonyms: beginning, commencement, continuation, go, introduction

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