Right To Die with Dignity According to The Indian Constitution

This article on Right To Die with Dignity According to The Indian Constitution is written by Abigail Antony a student from Lovely Professional University pursuing LLB, BA Hons. This article has clearly elaborated on the Right to Die with dignity as a fundamental right, not only in India but the whole world at large.

What is death?

Death is the permanent cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. When an individual dies, their body stops functioning, and there is no longer any activity in the brain, heart, or other vital organs.

The right to die can also be termed euthanasia meaning the death of a person who suffers severe or painful incurable disease.

The right to die with dignity has been accepted as a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution’s Article 21, which is similar to the right to life and personal liberty. The Supreme Court of India has decided that the right to die with dignity is an extension of the right to life and individual liberty according to the Indian Constitution.

In some countries, such as Canada and some states in the United States, according to their constitution, it has approved this law medically assisted dying for individuals with a terminal illness or incurable condition that causes intolerable suffering. However, in many other countries, including India, there is no legal provision for medically assisted dying only medical professionals such as doctors can have easy access towards this law.

Though in India it is still said to be a complicated issue up to date.

Causes of Death Occurance

The following are the possible causes for the occurrence of death,

There are numerous possible causes of death, which can broadly be categorized as natural causes and unnatural causes.

Natural causes of death include:

  • Age-related illnesses: diseases and disorders, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and dementia.
  • Chronic diseases: Chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can lead to complications that may result in death.
  • Infectious diseases: Infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens can be fatal, especially in individuals with weakened immune systems.
  • Genetic disorders: Certain genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, can lead to complications that may result in premature death.
  • Unnatural causes of death include:
  • Accidents: Accidents such as car crashes, falls, and drowning can be fatal.
  • Suicide: Deliberate self-harm or suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide.
  • Homicide: Death caused by another person’s actions, such as murder or manslaughter.
  • Substance abuse: Substance abuse, including drug overdoses and alcohol-related deaths, can be fatal.

Other causes: Other causes of unnatural death include war, terrorism, and natural disasters.

Example of case law

Common Cause v. Union of India, decided by the Supreme Court of India in 2018.

In this case, the Court allowed the right to die with dignity as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to life and personal liberty. The Court held that an individual has the right to refuse medical treatment or life support and that the withdrawal of such treatment is not equivalent to suicide or homicide especially when there is the occurrence of incurable or unbearable disease not just unnecessarily.

The Court also laid down specific guidelines to be followed for the withdrawal to prevent any abuse or misuse of the right to die with dignity. These guidelines included obtaining the opinion of a medical board, consent from the patient or their family, and judicial oversight to ensure that the decision is voluntary and informed.

Judgement of the case

The judgment was significant in providing legal clarity on the right to die with dignity in India and establishing a framework for the withdrawal of life support in certain circumstances. It also sparked a broader discussion in India about end-of-life care and the rights of terminally ill patients.

Overall, the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Common Cause case affirmed the importance of individual autonomy and dignity in end-of-life decision-making and highlighted the need for compassionate and ethical end-of-life care in India.

Conclusion

It allowed passive euthanasia or the withdrawal of life support for terminally ill patients or those in a vegetative state, under certain conditions and safeguards. The Court held that an individual has the right to refuse medical treatment or life support and that the withdrawal of such treatment is not equivalent to suicide or homicide.

While the right to die with dignity is a fundamental right in India, it is a complex issue that requires careful consideration of ethical, legal, and social implications. It is essential to ensure that any decision related to end-of-life care respects the autonomy and dignity of the individual, while also protecting vulnerable populations from potential abuse or coercion.

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