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Report No. 196

The Seminar of April 2005

The Indian Society of Critical Care Medicine, Mumbai, approached the Law Commission of India requesting the participation of the Law Commission in a Seminar on "End-of-Life Issues" to be held on 27 th April, 2005 at New Delhi in which the Union Minister for Law and Justice, Sri H.R. Bhardwaj was the Chief Guest. The Seminar was attended by Medical Specialists, Legal Experts, and Media Personnel and issues relating to "withholding life support measures in dying patients" were discussed.

It was obvious that several legal, moral, religious and ethical issues were involved in the above subject apart from social issues. The Seminar was organized in the wake of the Terri Schiavo Case (stopping life support) in USA and the case of Venkatesh (organ transplantation) in the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The Indian Society of Critical Care Medicine took the initiative to develop guidelines on these issues for 'intensive care specialists'. The Society was of the view that there was need to develop appropriate legislation for end-of-life issues in our country.

Hon'ble Minister for Law and Justice Sri H.R. Bhardwaj agreed that there was need to develop some legal frame-work. The speakers included the Chairman of the Law Commission of India and Sri S. Balakrishnan, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India, Dr. Ram E. Rajagopalan, President of the Society, Dr. R.K. Mani, President (Elect) of the Society and Dr. Rajesh Chawla, Secretary of the Society.

A large number of senior doctors attended the seminar and emphasized the need for a law on the subject of 'withholding of lifesupport' to dying patients. Their main apprehension was that if the doctors took the risk of withdrawing life-support, there was the possibility of their being prosecuted for 'abetting' suicide under section 306 of the Indian Penal, Code, 1860.

At that Seminar, the proposal that the Law Commission of India should come forward with a Paper on the subject of 'withdrawal of life- support' was accepted. But, the Commission realized soon that most of the cases before the doctors have given rise to purely legal issues. As the issues are legal issues, the Commission has decided to prepare a final Report.

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

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