The Supreme Court of India on Euthanasia: Too Little, Too Late

Sunita Vs Bandewar, Leni Chaudhuri, Lubna Duggal, Sanjay Nagral  | 2018


On Friday, March 9, 2018 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”, ie, a person’s decision communicated in advance on withdrawal of life-saving treatment under certain conditions, which should be respected by the treating doctor/s and the hospital. It also reiterates the legal recognition of the right to “passive euthanasia”; and draws upon Article 21 – the right to life – of the Constitution of India (henceforth Constitution) (2) interpreting robustly that the “right to life” includes the “right to die with dignity”. Justices Misra and Khanwilkar disposed of the writ petition filed in 2005 by Common Cause (3) (henceforth CC petition) saying, “The directive and guidelines shall remain in force till the Parliament brings a legislation in the field”