Sharpening a pro-choice debate
Tabled by MP Baijayant Panda, the Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients Bill, 2016 contains several prominent features: it recognises the validity of advance medical directives by terminally-ill patients, which physicians will be bound to respect while treating them, and it also emphasises the need to account for palliative care when making end-of-life-care decisions. However, the provisions most likely to attract popular attention are those permitting physician-assisted suicide for terminally-ill patients.
Would be interesting to see how Parliament reacts to the right of a terminally ill person to assisted suicide.The first efforts have been made in this direction through this Bill, which recognises the right of terminally-ill patients to withhold and refuse medical treatment, and to express their desire to a medical practitioner to assist them in committing suicide. It does not permit active euthanasia. Once the practitioner is satisfied that the patient is competent and has taken an informed decision, the decision will be confirmed by a panel of three independent medical practitioners. This Bill is a bold and welcome step in many respects, and is a significant improvement over the draft Ministry Bill that it is based on. It moves away from decision-making based on the ‘best interests’ of the patient and recognises the right to die with dignity. However, there is need to clearly think through some of the provisions in this Bill and the procedures it sets out.