The Management of Patients with Terminal Illness- Withdrawal of Medical Life Support Bill states that hospitals will be required to set up approval committees for considering cases of Passive Euthanasia.
Passive Euthanasia means the withdrawal of medical treatment and life support system of a terminally-ill patient.
Provisions of the Bill
• The Bill states that all super-speciality hospitals should have approval committees on passive euthanasia.
• It also states that any distortion of facts before approval committees may lead to imprisonment of 5 to 10 years in jail and a fine of Rs 20 lakh to Rs 1 crore.
• The approval committees will decide on applications of “Living will”, a written document that allows patients to explicitly state their desire against life when recovery is not possible from a terminal condition.
• It provides for soothing care for patients even if they have opted for passive euthanasia.
• This redrafted bill does not encourage active euthanasia and thus, only supports passive euthanasia.
• It terms death from passive euthanasia a 'Natural Death'.
• It also has provisions for the protection of competent patients, medical practitioners and care givers who will not be considered guilty for the act of passive euthanasia.
• It provides for consent of near relatives to apply for withholding or withdrawing of medical treatment of ‘incompetent’ terminally ill patients.
Recognition of Passive Euthanasia by Supreme Court
The draft Bill was earlier known as Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill. It was put in the public domain in May 2016 and comments and suggestion were sought from various stakeholders.
The Union Government in October 2017 submitted this draft bill to the Supreme Court which said there should be adequate safeguards for the implementation of a living will. The SC, hearing a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause, has reserved its order on the issue.
The Supreme Court recognised passive euthanasia in 2011 in the Aruna Shanbaug case, the former nurse who spent 42 years in vegetative state after a sexual assault until her death in 2015. In 2011, SC laid down guidelines on passive euthanasia and said the process should be followed across India.
What is Passive Euthanasia?
• Passive Euthanasia is an act of speeding up the death of a terminally-ill patient by changing some form of support and letting nature take its course.
• It involves turning off respirators, halting medications, discontinuing food and water so that patient gets an easy death.
• It can also include giving large doses of morphine to control pain in spite of painkiller that can cause fatal respiratory problems.
• Passive euthanasia involves giving the right to a patient to deny medical treatment or life support system in case of permanent fatal illness, while active euthanasia is the acceleration of death using injections or overdose of drug.
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