India forms panel on euthanasia law

The Unity Government of India has formed a committee of experts to make suggestions for the creation of a law allowing the death of people in special circumstances on humanitarian grounds.

The practice, called euthanasia or compassionate killing, is illegal in most countries.

The Law Commission of India had in 2006 drafted a law that would have allowed the withdrawal of treatment services for terminally ill patients in special circumstances, but the law has not been tabled in parliament.

In 2013, the government attempted to propose a law, but again abandoned the proposal, pointing out that a 2011 Supreme Court ruling established detailed procedures and criteria to be met for the removal of life support systems. The 2011 judgment only allowed such an option if the patient was either brain dead or in a permanent vegetative state.

In March 2018, the Supreme Court of India amended the existing provisions to allow the withdrawal of treatment and life support systems for patients in a permanent vegetative state, giving legal status to what is called a “Living will” that anyone can create in their lifetime.

Such “living wills” may state that the person should be allowed to die through the withdrawal of life support systems, food or treatment if that person ends up suffering from a terminal illness or is in a vegetative state. .

In the meantime, various courts have rejected “active euthanasia”, where a person or their loved ones seek permission to end someone’s life for compassionate reasons by means such as lethal injections, rather. than withdrawal from treatment and / or food.

Painless death from such injections is legal in some countries such as Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands, as well as in the US states of Washington and Oregon. However, any form of active euthanasia is illegal in India.

As such, India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has again formed an “expert committee” to examine the issue of euthanasia and make suggestions for legal reforms.

In a recent statement, the Indian government’s Department of Health and Family Welfare said the committee had not submitted its recommendations and that further action would depend on them.

“The expert committee formed under the aegis of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to discuss the issue of enabling legislation to regulate euthanasia in the country has not yet submitted its recommendation to the government. Any further action depends on the recommendation of the Committee, ”he said.

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