The Role of Consent in Euthanasia: Autonomy vs. Paternalism

  • Swarnima Rajoria and Hadiya Khan
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  • Swarnima Rajoria

    Student at Law College Dehradun, Uttaranchal University, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India

  • Hadiya Khan

    Assistant Professor at Law College Dehradun, Uttaranchal University, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India

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The brief examines the place of autonomous decision-making in the legal regulation of euthanasia in India. It is a detailed exposition of the functioning of the notion of consent in the legislative and judicial frameworks on euthanasia, the debate being around striking the right balance between facilitating the individual patient and protecting her from self-abuse and other forms of mistreatment through paternalistic state intervention. It is argued that, if India’s pluralistic context presents challenges of their own, the end-point vis-à-vis facilitating the individual’s right to make autonomous choices ought not to be liable to derision on that ground: namely, that they’re hopelessly behind the West. The focus of the essay to some extent rests on the role of consent under the right to choose, as elaborated across two landmark decisions of the Supreme Court that have shaped the legal debate: the Aruna Shanbaug case and the passive euthanasia case. While the former is regarded in the essay as having served as a kind of catalyst for facilitating the acceptability of consent, autonomy and choice in delinked euthanasia, once the principle of informed consent and the consent requirement enters the legal discourse through the door of therapeutic nihilism, it creates a domino effect and gains legitimacy from cascading down across different jurisprudential contexts. The essence of the essay is also focused on legislative attempts at codifying the status of advance directive or living wills (ADLW) bids through the Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients Bill. Although the Bill has not yet been adopted into law, what it sets out is a process through which a patient may be able to convey her preferences about her end-of-life decisions. Keeping in view the uncertain terrain on which this balance must be maintained, the author attempts to see what steps may be taken to provide a firmer foothold in the Indian legal discourse on human rights and medical ethics.


Research Paper


International Journal of Law Management and Humanities, Volume 7, Issue 3, Page 874 - 891


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