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The Supreme Court, which recognised the right of terminally-ill persons to execute a living will, today said the right was also available to those who were unable to give their free consent to end life.
The top court held that when the right of an adult person who expresses his desire for medical treatment can be regarded to be flowing from Article 21 of the Constitution then the patient's right who is unable to express his view cannot be outside Article 21.
"When an adult person having mental capacity to take a decision can exercise his right not to take treatment or withdraw from treatment, the above right cannot be negated for a person who is not able to take an informed decision due to terminal illness or being a persistent vegetative state," Justice Ashok Bhushan said in his separate judgement.
Justice Bhushan, who concurred with the chief justice and other judges, said that the right to refuse treatment flowed from Article 21 (Right to life and liberty) of the Constitution and hence this was available to those suffering from a disease and incompetent to execute a living will.
Dealing with the mechanism for refusal to take treatment in case of such persons, Justice Bhushan said there are other stakeholders like the family members and the doctors treating the terminally-ill patient who can help the patient in this situation.
"We also are of the opinion that in cases of incompetent patients who are unable to take an informed decision, it is in the best interests of the patient that the decision be taken by competent medical experts and that such decision be implemented after providing a cooling period at least of one month to enable aggrieved person to approach the Court of Law.
"The best interest of the patient as determined by medical experts shall meet the ends of justice. The medical team by taking decision shall also take into consideration the opinion of the blood relations of the patient and other relevant facts and circumstances," Justice Bhushan said.
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