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Centre Presents Draft Bill on Passive Euthanasia, Asks for Views

The draft Bill saves medical practitioners from any legal guilt and allows them to give palliative care.

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After many years of debates and legal discussions, the union government has presented a draft Bill on passive euthanasia that gives patients the right to “withhold or withdraw medical treatment to herself or himself” and “allow nature to take its own course”, The Times of India reported.

Reacting to this, award-winning author Pinki Virani has asked for the law to be renamed ‘The Aruna Act (Terminally-Ill Patient Protection in Passive Euthanasia).’

Aruna Shanbaug was in a persistent vegetative state, blind and immobile since 1973 following brutal sodomisation and strangulation with a dog chain during a sexual assault. She succumbed on 18 May 2015.

The Union Health Ministry uploaded a draft last week on its website titled ‘Terminally Ill Patients (protection of patients and medical practitioners) Bill’ and has invited comments from people via email, before 19 June 2016.

The Bill provides protection to both patients and doctors from any liability for withdrawing medical treatment but states that palliative care can continue.

The draft has, however, disappointed experts who wanted clarity on the concept of a living will. A living will is defined as “a document in which a person states his/her desire to have or not to have extraordinary life-prolonging measures when recovery is not possible from his/her terminal condition”.

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In the draft, the Centre has laid down the entire process for seeking euthanasia, right from the composition of the medical team to approaching the High Court for permission.

In January, after years of refusal, the government said in an ongoing case in the Supreme Court, that it was on the verge of framing a legislation permitting passive euthanasia. The next hearing of the case is in the last week of July.

Every competent patient, including minors aged above 16 years, has a right to take a decision and express the desire to the medical practitioner attending on her or him.
Draft Bill

Dr Roop Gursahani, a neurologist from Hinduja Hospital in Mahim, Mumbai, who was on the Supreme Court-appointed panel to assess KEM nurse Aruna Shanbaug’s health status in 2010-11, said, “We welcome the move (inviting people’s comments), but we would like to see a more comprehensive end-of-life care legislation.” He still added that the circular was a positive start.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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