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Plea in Supreme Court restarts debate on euthanasia in India

A petition in the Supreme Court of India has restarted the debate on legality of active euthanasia or physician-assisted mercy killing. The petitioner pleaded that a procedure should be laid down for patients suffering from Rabies to allow the victims or their guardians to opt for the assistance of physicians willing for assisted dying or active-euthanasia.

While passive euthanasia is permitted after a 2018 Supreme Court judgment in the case of Common Cause vs Union of India, active euthanasia is illegal in India.

The petitioner submitted that since Rabies has a 100 percent fatality rate, victims suffering from the disease have no reason for hope and should therefore not be made to endure harrowing and painful suffering which precedes death. It is the petitioner’s case that the 2018 SC judgment, which permits passive euthanasia, will not benefit patients suffering from Rabies as the disease has no palliative and alleviating drugs. Thus, the petitioner argued that infected persons should be considered as a separate class due to the exceptional and violent nature of the disease and the absence of a cure for it.

The Delhi high court in an October 2019 order had turned down the plea by the petitioner NGO, All Creatures Great and Small, leading to the appeal in Supreme Court.

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