Govt prepares draft bill allowing passive euthanasia, experts unhappy

The bill provides protection to patients and doctors from any liability for withholding or withdrawing medical treatment.

New Delhi: The Modi government has come up with 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 Union health ministry last week uploaded the draft, titled Terminally Ill Patients (protection of patients and medical practitioners) Bill, on its website. It has invited suggestions from people via email, until June 19, 2016.

"Government has decided to solicit public opinion/ comments before formulation of law on passive euthanasia. An explanatory note along with a brief on euthanasia and draft bill (Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients [Protection
of Patients and Medical Practitioners]) as given by the Law Commission in its 241st report is being uploaded for soliciting public comments/opinions. The comments may be sent via email preferably by June 19," a Health Ministry notification signed by Under Secretary Sunil Kumar said.

Read: No order on euthanasia, SC leaves it open for government to take call

The bill provides protection to patients and doctors from any liability for withholding or withdrawing medical treatment and states that palliative care can continue after treatment is withdrawn.

However, the bill does not make clear 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".

Paragraph 11 of the draft bill only states that any "advance medical directive (living will) or medical power of attorney executed by the person shall be void and of no effect and shall not be binding on any medical practitioner". This lack of clarity on whether any person can seek euthanasia has left experts disappointed, said the report.

The draft bill protects medical practitioners from any legal guilt and allows them to offer palliative (pain relief) care. "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."

The draft also lays down the process for seeking euthanasia, from composition of the medical team to moving the high court for permission.

The Central government, after years of opposition, made a U-turn in January and told the Supreme Court that it was on the verge of preparing a draft bill allowing passive euthanasia. The Centre was reacting to a case involving euthanasia in the apex court, whose next hearing is in July.

The draft bill however, has been objected to by experts including medical practitioners, who say it is vague on a number of important details.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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