The Supreme Court of India Wednesday agreed to modify its 2018 judgement legalising passive euthanasia in the country, setting plans in motion to make the authorisation process easier.The petition initiating this case was filed by Common Cause, a civil society organization behind the legal crusade to legalise passive euthanasia. The organisation filed another petition in the court because they argued that the authorisation process laid down in the 2018 ruling was “unworkable” and “not practically capable of implementation.” The petitioners argued that not a single AMD case had been filed in the past five years because of the cumbersome process involved. Lawyers appearing on behalf of Common Cause advocated for the retention of only one board consisting of doctors from the concerned hospital. The judges agreed to modify their earlier judgement, but stopped short of agreeing to review it entirely.The current system hinges on a living will officially known as an ddvanced medical directive (AMD). An AMD is a legal document that allows a patient to give explicit instructions related to his treatment in advance due to incapacitation. The process in which the living will is executed involves two boards of doctors. The first board consists of doctors from the hospital of treatment. The second board is constituted by the respective district collector. After board approval, a judicial magistrate visits the hospital for further authentication.Highlighting the impracticality of these guidelines, the petition from Common Cause stated:It is humbly submitted that the procedure laid down in the current guidelines is not practically capable of implementation. This is because such a procedure is likely to be lengthy and unsuited to intensive care settings where decisions about the withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment must be taken within a few hours or a couple of weeks, at the very most.The decision follows an earlier order by the court asking the Union Ministry of Health to review the guidelines in place. The order asked officials to “arrive at suitable draft guidelines which can be placed before this Court for consideration.”The next hearing on this matter is scheduled for January 19.
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