Recognition of Passive Euthanasia in India


Euthanasia incorporates different measurements, from dynamic (acquainting something with influence demise) to latent (retaining treatment or strong measures); deliberate (assent) to automatic (assent from gatekeeper) and doctor helped (where doctor’s endorse the prescription and quiet or the outsider controls the drug to cause death)[1]. The main objective is to consider the subject of euthanasia from the medical and human rights.

In India abetment of suicide and attempt to commit suicide are both criminal offenses. In 1994, the established legitimacy of Indian Penal Code Section (IPC Sec) 309 was tested in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court proclaimed that IPC Sec 309 is unlawful, under Article 21 (Right to Life) of the constitution in a milestone judgment [2]. The Court held that the privilege to life under Article 21 of the Constitution does exclude the privilege to die.

Helping a critically sick individual to die by his will is the most discussed and debated topic in the present contemporary medicinal services. Like cloning and body gift, willful extermination has likewise produced extraordinary debate in view of new frames of mind created in medication. The capacity to keep a withering individual bursting at the seams with the assistance of new gear has brought up an issue for the critically sick patient, his doctor, policymakers, and the open in regards on his right to die.

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Euthanasia is portrayed as the purposeful and deliberate executing of an individual, for the benefit of that individual, so as to mitigate him from torment and enduring

Euthanasia is not executing a patient but enabling the critically sick individual to take his life all alone wish to pass on gently. This disputable point is discussed on the grounds that it damages codes of medical ethics and patient consideration which exists since antiquity.


James Rachel who is writing in one of the most appreciated medical paper ethics described what he took to be the prevailing view of euthanasia as follows[3]:

The difference between active and passive euthanasia is thought to be crucial for medical ethics. The idea that it is permissible in at least some cases, to withhold treatment and allow a patient to die, but it is never permissible to take any direct action designed to kill the patient.

Like all forms of euthanasia, it includes the intention to hasten death to the patient’s advantage (in light of their normal negative personal satisfaction). What is standardly taken to separate detached rather than dynamic killing is that the former hastens death by not giving something which would, whenever gave, postpone passing—that is, passive euthanasia involves withdrawing or withholding life-prolonging medical treatment. So there are (in any event) three vital conditions for the event of passive euthanasia:

  • There is a pulling back or retaining of life-prolonging treatment
  • The principle reason (or one of the primary purposes) of this pulling back or retaining is to achieve (or “rush”) patient’s death
  • The explanation behind “hastening” death is that withering (or dying sooner rather than later) is in the patient’s very own best advantages.


The constitution of India guarantees “Right to Life” to its entire citizen. With increasingly more accentuation being laid on the educated assent regarding the patients in the medical, the concept of euthanasia in India has received a mixed response.

In the State of Maharashtra v Maruty ShripatiDubal[4], the conflict was that Sec 309 of IPC was unlawful as it is violative of Article 19 and 21. It was held for this situation by the Bombay High court that right to life also includes right to die and sec 309 was struck down. The court clearly said in this case that right to die is not unnatural; it is just uncommon and abnormal. In the case of P.Rathinam v Union of India[5], it was held that the scope of Article 21 includes the right to die. P.Rathinam held that Article 21 has also a positive content and is not merely negative in its reach. In the case of Gian Kaur v State of Punjab[6], the validity of sec 306 of IPC was in question, which penalized the abetment of suicide. This case overruled P.Rathinam but the court opined that in the context of a critical condition patient or one in the PVS, the privilege to right to die is not termination of life prematurely but rather it means accelerating the death process which has already been commenced. It was also 1987(1) Bom CR 2 1994 SCC (3) 394 3 (1996) 2 SCC 648 submitted that the right to life with human dignity4 must also include a death with dignity and suffering or tolerating mental and physical agony.


On Friday, March 9, 2018[7] the five-judge Constitution Bench (CB) of the Supreme Court of India (SCI) chaired by Dipak Misra, the Chief Justice of India, pronounced its judgment (1) (henceforth CC judgment) granting, for the first time in India, legal recognition to “advanced medical directives” or “living wills”, i.e., an individual’s choice imparted ahead of time on withdrawal of life-sparing treatment under specific conditions, which ought to be regarded by the treating specialist/s and the emergency clinic.”.

Delivering the judgment, the Supreme Court bench noted that an individual has the “right to die in dignity”. According to the choice, an individual under medicinal treatment can choose when to surrender life support. The top court said that its rules and mandates will stay in power till an enactment is carried to manage the issue. The Bench, led by chief justice Dipak Misra, said that it has set down rules on who would execute the will and how gesture for detached killing would be conceded by the medicinal board. The CJI said that the other member from the five-judge Constitution seat have agreed on the rules and orders gone by it.


Supreme Court through Aruna Shanbaug case allowed passive euthanasia and held that the right to die with dignity is an intrinsic facet of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Article 21 grasps nobility as its basic establishment and subsequently, every individual must reserve the privilege to choose whether or not to accept medical intervention in case of terminal illness. The privilege to live with dignity incorporates self-sufficiency in relation to the process of dying and choosing to not undergo pain and suffering.

Also Read – Honour Killing: Caste An Evil Concept

[1] Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs. Union of India & Ors. Writ Petition (Criminal) no. 115 of 2009, Decided on 7 March, 2011. [Accessed on August 16, 2011]. Available from:

[2] 4. P. Rathinam vs. Union of India, 1994(3) SCC 394

[3] Rachels J. Active and passive euthanasia. N Engl J Med1975;2:78–80.

[4] 1987(1) Bom CR

[5] 1994 SCC(3) 394

[6] (1996) 2 SCC 648

[7] Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs. Union Of India & Ors on 7 March, 2011

This article is authored by Priya Pandey, student of B.Sc LL.B at New Law College Bharati Vidyapeeth University

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