Right to Die Guidelines Day #3: Bench Directs Union and Sr. Adv. Datar to Submit Joint Proposal

Euthanasia and the Right to Die with Dignity

Judges: K.M. Joseph J, Ajay Rastogi J, Aniruddha Bose J, Hrishikesh Roy J, C.T. Ravikumar J

Today, the 5-Judge Constitution Bench led by Justice K.M Joseph continued to hear the application seeking modifications to the SC’s 2018 guidelines for implementing ‘Advance Directives’ (AD). The Bench ordered the Indian Society for Critical Care (ISCC) and the Union government to submit a joint proposal on the modifications they are requesting the Court to make to the original guidelines. 

ADs are attested documents an individual may sign if they wish to refuse treatment if they become terminally ill. In July 2019 the ISCC filed an application to modify the SC’s guidelines, stating that they were too cumbersome to be implemented.

Court Requires Clarity on Union’s Shifting Stance

Justice Joseph began the hearing by pointing out that the Union initially opposed the application when it was first filed. However, in the hearings so far, the Union has been in favor of removing unnecessary obstacles in the AD implementation process. He suggested that there was a lack of clarity because of this shift in the Union’s position. He directed both parties to meet and create a joint proposal for modifying the guidelines.

Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, representing ISCC, agreed to the directions. However, he emphasised upon a point of disagreement between the Union and ISCC—the necessity of a second medical board to review the decision of the primary board if the AD is approved. Mr. Datar argued that Court must trust the doctors and that time is of the essence for terminally ill patients, who will continue to suffer during these extensive deliberations. 

On the other hand, Assistant Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj argued that the review board should remain and that their decision must be sent to the Judicial Magistrate.

The Bench reiterated their directions to both parties and asked them to submit a joint proposal by Monday. The Bench will review the proposal and dictate the final Order on Tuesday (January 24th).