In a petition currently before the Supreme Court to determine the legality of advance directives, the government has assured the Court that it will pass a legislation regulating the withdrawal of life saving treatment from terminally ill patients. Following this, and based on the recommendations of the Law Commission of India, the government solicited comments from the public on a draft Medical Treatment of Terminally-Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill.
To help inform the debate on this issue, we will be publishing a series of reports on end-of-life medical care and decision making. In the first report in the series, we examine this Bill, assessing its provisions against a set of principles that ought to govern such situations. This includes the right to die with dignity, patient autonomy and the ability to exercise it, the primacy of the patients best interests, communication and consultation between the medical practitioner, the patient, and the patient’s kin as well as minimising judicial intervention in end-of-life decision making.
Based on our analysis, we suggest a way forward for current efforts at drafting an effective and rights-respecting legislation, that also takes into account the ability of doctors to make medically sound decisions in the best interests of the patient.