Parliamentary panel seeks reasons from centre for not bringing euthanasia law

The ministry in 2018 had said that the matter regarding the formulation of legislation on Passive Euthanasia is under consideration.
Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)
Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)

NEW DELHI: A parliamentary panel wants to know from the Union Health Ministry about the challenges in bringing a bill on a “sensitive subject” like passive euthanasia, an issue pending since 2018. 

The panel said it has asked the ministry to deliberate on the issue with all stakeholders so that an “informed and well-considered decision” is taken at the right time and there is “no inordinate delay” in coming up with the law.

The Committee noted that “three assurances relating to the formulation of legislation on passive euthanasia “are yet to be fulfilled by the ministry.”

“The ministry has informed that a judgment of Supreme Court has come in this matter, and until a law is made the same judgment is applied on case to case basis keeping in view the sensitivity involved,” the panel said in its report ‘Review of pending assurances about the ministry of health and family welfare.’

The ministry in 2018 had said that the matter regarding the formulation of legislation on Passive Euthanasia is under consideration.

An expert committee was constituted in 2020 to discuss the issue of legislation and was still examining the various aspect. 

“The recommendations of the expert committee are still awaited,” said the report which was tabled in the Lok Sabha on Thursday. 

Passive euthanasia is a condition where there is withdrawal of medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten the death of a terminally ill patient.

On March 9, 2018, the Supreme Court legalized passive euthanasia using the withdrawal of life support to patients in a permanent vegetative state. 

The decision was made as part of the verdict in a case involving Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse who was sexually assaulted, and during the attack, she was strangled with a chain. Oxygen deprivation left her in a vegetative state until her death in 2015.

Headed by Lok Sabha BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal, the committee on government assurances said that the Supreme Court had further directed that the guidelines and directives shall remain in force till the parliament brings legislation in the field.

“The Committee noted that the issue is delicate and emotional which cuts across complex and dynamic aspects of the civilized society such as legal, ethical, human rights, health, religious, economic, spiritual, social and cultural and hence, more discussions with the stakeholders and legal opinion need to be taken on the subject

The Committee fully agrees that in order to preserve harmony in society, decisions on delicate and soft issues such as passive euthanasia need to be taken with much caution, the report said.

The Committee pulled up the ministry for their assurance on creating a cadre restricting of physiotherapists. The panel said that the assurance is pending for more than three years.

“Taking note of inordinate delay in fulfilment of the said assurance, the Committee are of the view that cadre restructuring is crucial for enhancing the effectiveness of service and capacity building of physiotherapists,” the panel said, adding that they recommend the ministry to “earnestly pursue” the matter and chalk out an action plan to finalise the requisite cadre restructuring of a physiotherapist at the earliest.

The Committee also pulled up the ministry for not sharing sanctioned posts, filled up posts, shortfall and backlog in central health institutes, despite assurances.

“The Committee is concerned to note that even though two years have lapsed, the information is yet to be compiled and the assurance is pending without any outcome,” the report added.

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The New Indian Express