Delhi High Court Denies Request for Passive Euthanasia in Vegetative State Case

The Delhi High Court has rejected a petition to refer a 30-year-old man, who has been in a vegetative state since suffering severe head injuries in 2013, to a medical board for consideration of passive euthanasia. Justice Subramonium Prasad, presiding over the case, stated that the man is not dependent on life support systems and is able to sustain life without external aid.

The court’s decision came after a thorough review of the patient’s medical condition, which revealed that he is not terminally ill and does not require mechanical interventions to remain alive. “The petitioner is surviving without any external aid and is not on any life support system. While the court sympathizes with the parents, as the petitioner is not terminally ill, this court cannot intervene and allow consideration of a prayer that is legally untenable,” Justice Prasad explained.

The ruling also referenced several Supreme Court judgments that have established active euthanasia as legally impermissible in India, noting that no one, including physicians, is allowed to end a patient’s life by administering lethal substances, even if the intention is to alleviate suffering.

Passive euthanasia, which involves withholding treatments necessary for the continuation of life like ventilators or feeding tubes, was the central issue of the petition filed by the man’s family. The family argued that the man, a former student at Punjab University, has no hope for recovery after remaining unresponsive for nearly a decade following a fall from the fourth floor of his accommodation. They detailed that despite their best efforts and consultations with various doctors, the prognosis was bleak, and the man had developed severe complications such as deep bed sores leading to further infections.

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The plea highlighted the emotional and physical toll on the parents, who are aging and finding it increasingly difficult to provide care.

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