The Supreme Court of India on Friday recognized the legal validity of living wills and the possibility of opting for passive euthanasia and clarified the guidelines to be followed for people who decide to refuse life support.
A five-judge panel headed by Chief Justice (CJI) Dipak Misra said in its verdict that any person could draft a will that was binding on the doctors and his family members.
"The Supreme Court has said that every citizen has the right to take such a decision if his/her life has reached a point that his/her life can be taken forward only through artificial life support system," lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who represents petitioner NGO Common Cause, told local media after the ruling.
The Supreme Court's verdict comes in response to a plea filed by the non-profit in 2005.
A senior analyst at Common Cause, Anumeha Jha, told EFE that the verdict was a "great victory" because it recognized the right of a person in full possession of their mental faculties to decide to die with dignity.
Passive euthanasia is limited to the removal of mechanized life support systems or medication and food needed to keep the patient alive, while active euthanasia involves the administration of lethal drugs or other such methods to end a patient's life.
In 2011, India's top court had ruled that passive euthanasia could be allowed, subject to clearance by a High Court, a landmark ruling since, until then, there had been no legislation for passive euthanasia.
A court panel had said in the verdict that terminally-ill patients could be allowed to opt for passive euthanasia under exceptional circumstances with approval from the court.