Monday, 1 February 2016

Passive euthanasia already covered in MCI Code of Ethics than why a separate law?

Passive euthanasia already covered in MCI Code of Ethics than why a separate law?

Dr K K Aggarwal

In an affidavit filed through the ministry of health the Centre has told the Supreme Court it supports "passive euthanasia" for terminally ill patients under a strictly regulated procedure but opposes any form of "active euthanasia". The draft of The Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill and the draft of The Euthanasia (Regulation) Bill, is already ready.

In passive euthanasia, the life support system of a terminally ill patient who is in a vegetative state is withdrawn. In active euthanasia, a patient is put to death through a lethal injection.

On January 15, a five-judge constitution bench, hearing a PIL demanding that "right to die" be declared a fundamental right for patients in a permanent vegetative state, had directed the Centre to clarify its stand on "passive euthanasia" for a terminally ill person. The next hearing is on February 1 i.e. today.

The government proposes to incorporate directives issued by a two-judge bench in the Aruna Shanbaug case in its March 2011 judgment. The directives had stated that an expert committee of doctors and top government officials should examine such cases after obtaining prior permission of the high courts concerned in each state, so as to prevent misuse by vested interests.

The MCI regulations already have clear-cut guidelines on the subject. Regulation 6.7 of the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations 2002, explicitly prohibits doctors from practicing euthanasia.

6.7 Euthanasia: Practicing euthanasia shall constitute unethical conduct. However on specific occasion, the question of withdrawing supporting devices to sustain cardio-pulmonary function even after brain death, shall be decided only by a team of doctors and not merely by the treating physician alone. A team of doctors shall declare withdrawal of support system. Such team shall consist of the doctor in charge of the patient, Chief Medical Officer / Medical Officer in charge of the hospital and a doctor nominated by the in-charge of the hospital from the hospital staff or in accordance with the provisions of the Transplantation of Human Organ Act, 1994.

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