Report No. 241
14. Summary of Recommendations
14.1 Passive euthanasia, which is allowed in many countries, shall have legal recognition in our country too subject to certain safeguards, as suggested by the 17th Law Commission of India and as held by the Supreme Court in Aruna Ramachandra's case [(2011) 4 SCC 454)]. It is not objectionable from legal and constitutional point of view.
14.2 A competent adult patient has the right to insist that there should be no invasive medical treatment by way of artificial life sustaining measures / treatment and such decision is binding on the doctors / hospital attending on such patient provided that the doctor is satisfied that the patient has taken an 'informed decision' based on free exercise of his or her will. The same rule will apply to a minor above 16 years of age who has expressed his or her wish not to have such treatment provided the consent has been given by the major spouse and one of the parents of such minor patient.
14.3 As regards an incompetent patient such as a person in irreversible coma or in Persistent Vegetative State and a competent patient who has not taken an 'informed decision', the doctor's or relatives' decision to withhold or withdraw the medical treatment is not final. The relatives, next friend, or the doctors concerned / hospital management shall get the clearance from the High Court for withdrawing or withholding the life sustaining treatment. In this respect, the recommendations of Law Commission in 196th report is somewhat different. The Law Commission proposed an enabling provision to move the High Court.
14.4 The High Court shall take a decision after obtaining the opinion of a panel of three medical experts and after ascertaining the wishes of the relatives of the patient. The High Court, as parens patriae will take an appropriate decision having regard to the best interests of the patient.
14.5 Provisions are introduced for protection of medical practitioners and others who act according to the wishes of the competent patient or the order of the High Court from criminal or civil action. Further, a competent patient (who is terminally ill) refusing medical treatment shall not be deemed to be guilty of any offence under any law.
14.6 The procedure for preparation of panels has been set out broadly in conformity with the recommendations of 17th Law Commission. Advance medical directive given by the patient before his illness is not valid.
14.7 Notwithstanding that medical treatment has been withheld or withdrawn in accordance with the provisions referred to above, palliative care can be extended to the competent and incompetent patients. The Governments have to devise schemes for palliative care at affordable cost to terminally ill patients undergoing intractable suffering.
14.8 The Medical Council of India is required issue guidelines in the matter of withholding or withdrawing of medical treatment to competent or incompetent patients suffering from terminal illness.
14.9 Accordingly, the Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill, 2006, drafted by the 17th Law Commission in the 196th Report has been modified and the revised Bill is practically an amalgam of the earlier recommendations of the Law Commission and the views / directions of the Supreme Court in Aruna Ramachandra case. The revised Bill is at Annexure I.
Justice (Retd.) P. V. Reddi
Justice (Retd.) Shiv Kumar Sharma
11 August 2012