NEW DELHI: Against the backdrop of the Supreme Court verdict, which rejected the petition filed by author Pinki Virani for the mercy killing of comatose nurse Aruna Shanbaug, the Union Law and Justice Minister, Mr M Veerappa Moily has said that the government is examining whether a fresh legislation is required to permit passive euthanasia.
“The government needs to examine the matter thoroughly and it is going through the judgement to see whether a new legislation on passive euthanasia is required,” said Mr Moily.
According to reports, the government may ask the Law Commission to study the issue and come out with a report.
Mr Moily had earlier on Monday said there is a need for a serious debate regarding the matter.
“There is no question of concurring or not with the judgement. But in fact, they (Supreme Court) are right that without a law you cannot resort to this kind of a decision with a judicial order. Therefore, there is a need for a serious debate regarding the matter. It has to be examined, it has to be debated upon,” he said.
Mr Moily said that there were a lot of humanitarian points to be looked into and such petitions cannot be used as ‘’an instrument’’ to kill somebody.
The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a petition for the mercy killing of Aruna Shanbaug, who has been in a ‘’persistent vegetative state’’ for the past 37 years after being sodomised by a hospital sweeper, but permitted passive euthanasia if this was allowed by a high court.
A bench of Justices, Mr Justice Markandey Katju and Mr Justice Gyan Sudha Misra said passive euthanasia would occur when medical treatment is withheld or withdrawn leading to the death of a terminally ill person.
Active euthanasia is generally referred to a state where a patient is given a lethal injection or through any other method allowed to die in presence of doctors, while passive euthanasia involves withdrawing the life support system from a patient.
The bench further clarified that until Parliament enacts a law, its judgement on active and passive euthanasia will be in force. However, the guidelines with regard to passive euthanasia were not immediately available. The court said passive euthanasia can be voluntary and non-voluntary. It is voluntary if the patient requests mercy killing.
Non-voluntary passive euthanasia is that of Shanbaug’’s case – when the patient is incompetent to decide for herself. In such cases, the decision has to be taken by a surrogate, a proxy or family or by a panel of doctors, the court ruled.