Hyderabad: A ‘Living will’ by patients to allow them to die without treatment has not been accepted by the central health ministry in its guidelines issued for euthanasia.
The government, in its guidelines released on May 9, has stated that active euthanasia will not be practiced and only passive euthanasia for those certified as terminally ill by doctors might be allowed.
Senior neurosurgeon Dr Chandrashekar Naidu said, “Living will or advance medical directive has been accepted only in a few countries in the West. In India, we need to have strict rules about living will and till that?s in place it will be difficult to accept it as a valid document.”
A living will is usually made by a senior citizen when he or she is medically and mentally fit and do not want to be subjected to long-term treatments in due course of illness.
According to the guidelines, a living will is not binding on the medical practitioner, when the patient can be cured by treatment than that is the first option. If euthanasia has to be decided, a relative of the patient has to write to the High Court and it will be considered as a petition.
Dr Ram Prasad, a senior neurosurgeon, said, “The government is only looking at passive euthanasia whereby all existing treatment is stopped and the person is allowed a natural death. There will not be any injecting of poison as is seen in the case of active euthanasia.”
But when is the treatment to be stopped? These guidelines have to be prepared by the Medical Council of India and circulated to doctors.
A decision to exercise passive euthanasia is taken only after the order from the High Court which will study the petition by the relative — or relatives — and also the opinions of doctors who have been part of the patient’s care.
Advocate Mr M. Srinivas of the state consumer forum explained, “A living will requires legal sanctity from the court. At an advanced age, when the will is made, it has to be clear that it is not under pressure from the children or from any other members of the family. Identifying this is very important and for that reason various checks and balances have to be put in place.”
With rising instances of disputes, where senior citizens are abused for properties, a living will may prove to be an easy tool for relatives.
High Court advocate Mr Mohammed R. Zameer said, “Protection of senior citizens is important and these must not become easy tools for the family members to get rid of them. Hence any law will require to first look into their safety aspects and also have multiple levels of checks and balances which will involve independent views of a committee at the hospital level and also a proper cross verification by courts before allowing euthanasia.”