Treatment withdrawal – the Indian Supreme Court perspective

In a true door-stop of a judgment (538 pages) the Indian Supreme Court confirmed on 9 March the lawfulness of advance decisions to refuse treatment, and also confirmed that (with suitable procedural safeguards), treatment may lawfully be withheld from a terminally ill patient or a person in PVS with no prospect of recovery even where no such advance decision has been made.  The detailed, fascinating, and wide-ranging judgments of the 5 Justices cover comparative law (including considerable scrutiny of the English position*), moral philosophy, religion, and are particularly striking for their lyrical examination of the concept of dignity, which “may at times defy description.  To some, it may seem to be in the world of abstraction and some may even perversely treat it as an attribute of egotism or accentuated eccentricity. This feeling may come from the roots of absolute cynicism. But what really matters is that life without dignity is like a sound that is not heard.”

A useful summary of the judgment, and a link to the full PDF, can be found here.

* (I cannot resist noting that an article on the 39 Essex Chambers website by a certain A Ruck Keene is name-checked in footnotes).

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