The Supreme Court in a recent ruling made passive euthanasia legal and also legalised the process of creating a living will.
Let us first talk about the passive euthanasia part. This tackles the issue when there is no hope of recovery. This is a good thing. This should have been a no-brainer. Unfortunately it has come too late. Many people have suffered for years in pain due to the absence of such a law. Of course, there might have been many cases where the doctors and family might have quietly pulled the plug to save the patient the agony of being a vegetable waiting to perish. Good for them.
However, an important question still remains. What can be done when there does exist a treatment but it is worse than the disease? Yes, there could be betterment down the road but the path is torturous and full of suffering. If the patient would like to decide that they do not want to endure that pain and that they would like to withdraw from treatment, they should be allowed to do so. Currently, even after this ruling, this is still illegal which is a travesty of justice.
We’ve all heard of cases where patients in ICUs have been recovered, but at what cost? They were left with broken ribs due to the resuscitation attempts. What are the chances of such processes helping recovery? Many people die in ICUs after spending several days inside with tubes and needles in every conceivable space. Wouldn’t it have been better to die in peace at home surrounded by your family? Medications exist which can make the end peaceful despite several health issues.
I am not advocating that make the above method the default process. All I am saying is give the patient the choice. That is the least we can offer.
This brings me to the living will. A process has been defined to execute the living will and you can read about it here. There is one major problem with the process outlined. It is so laborious and complicated that I doubt if anyone will actually undergo the hassle. The process for the will to be enacted when the patient actually becomes comatose is also so long and arduous that it looks to me like the process will take weeks if not months. The purpose of the living will will be defeated by this process.
I understand the court’s concern while drafting the process. The concept of the living will can be misused by people with nefarious intentions. But I don’t think the solution outlined is the answer to this problem.
However, like every such major change, iterations are inevitable. It is too much to expect to get things right in ther first attempt. Let us hope that the last word on this has not been said yet.