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Report No. 196


From the above principles almost uniformly laid down by the Courts in several countries, it is clear that (i) in the case of a patient who is seriously ill, but competent, his refusal, not to take medical treatment and allow nature to take its own course, it is lawful and does not amount to 'attempt to commit suicide', (ii) Likewise,

(a) where doctors do not start or continue medical treatment in such cases because of such patients' refusal, they are not guilty of abetment of suicide or murder or culpable homicide and

(b) if the patient is a minor or is incompetent or is in a permanent vegetative state, or

(c) if the patient was competent but his decision was not an informed one, and if the doctors consider that there are no chances of recovery and that it was in the best interests of the patient that medical treatment be withheld or discontinued, the doctor's action would be lawful and they will not be guilty of any offence of abetting suicide or murder or culpable homicide.

We will be dealing with these aspects, with particular reference to the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Law of Torts towards the end of this Chapter. We propose a provision in the Bill that refusal for medical treatment by the patient or withdrawal or withholding treatment by doctors either on patient's instruction or the principle of best interests, will be treated as 'lawful'

8. Competent and incompetent patients 'informed decision' and best interests

We shall here refer to he distinction between 'competent' and 'incompetent' patients and as to what is meant by 'best interests'. In the draft Bill, we propose to give definitions on the basis of decided cases. These definitions are mostly based on the C-Test evolved by Justice Thorpe in he case already referred to earlier in Re C 1994(1) All ER 819.

Medical Treatment to Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Back

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