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A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra reserved its verdict on Wednesday on a plea seeking recognition of "living will" made by a terminally-ill patient for passive euthanasia. The Apex Court was considering the concept of a living will, which refers to a terminally ill patient's right to refuse treatment and his or her permission, given in advance, to authorise doctors to stop the life-support treatment in order to hasten death.

Refusing to entertain any doubts on the 2011 judgment in the Aruna Shanbaug case permitting a high court-supervised procedure for passive euthanasia, the bench, also comprising A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, said: "We can not take a regressive step".

In case the medical practitioner feels that a competent patient has not taken an informed decision or the patient is incompetent to make a decision, a case can be filed in that area's High Court by the patient's relative, friend or the medical practitioner.

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The central government told the court that it had proposed to set up medical boards at district and state level to decide individual cases of passive euthanasia.

Common Cause, which filed the case, requested the court to declare that people should have the right to die and opt for a living will to ensure they do not end up in a vegetative state and were allowed to die with dignity. The court will have to resolve the question whether the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution, which according to an earlier verdict does not include the right to die, is being voluntarily waived by a person giving such an advance directive. In the present case, the court may have to draw up stringent safeguards for certifying living wills, preferably by a judicial officer, and lay down the exact stage at which the advance directive becomes applicable. The roadblocks lie in taking this further and allowing a "living will" which the government is resisting, saying there are legal, religious and social implications in legalising the practice of a sane and fit person choosing to die if reduced to a vegetative state in future. Should the law allow "living wills"? Guidelines outlined in the Aruna Shanbaug judgment are applicable till a law comes in to place.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are acceptable in 10 nations across the world, including US, Canada, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium, according to NDTV.

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The government's bill was accessed by News18.

A certificate from a statutory medical board that a patient's condition is beyond cure and irreversible would take care of the fear of relatives and doctors about withdrawing life support, Justice Sikri said. The bill recognises the concept of living will but does not make it binding on medical practitioners and says that i can not be executed by any patient since it would be considered void.

In case of a minor, the consent should also be given by "the major spouse and parents".

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