The concept of assisted suicide or euthanasia came into the limelight after the Supreme Court legalized passive euthanasia in 2018 in the judgement of Common Cause (A Regd. Society) v.  Union of India[1]  This blogpost will examine the concept of assisted suicide in different countries and will attempt to give a thorough understanding of the issue.

The Common Cause judgment, which also studied the Aruna Shanbaug judgment (mentioned below) in detail and gave important observations with regards to the concept of assisted suicide in India. The court after examining observations made in Aruna Shanbaug and Gian Kaur v. The State of Punjab[2](a case which examined the validity of section 306 of the Indian Penal Code and ruled that the right to life under Article 21 also includes the right to a dignified death) gave an opinion that a decision taken by an individual to withdraw life -saving treatment of a patient is legal in situations when the patient is capable or not capable to give consent for such a decision.

The decision of the Division Bench of the Supreme Court in the Aruna Shanbaug case also understands the need for assisted suicide when the patient is in a vegetative state and has no reason for existence. The judgment gave limited rights of euthanasia and stated that to remove a patient from life support, a committee of three court-appointed doctors will have to be formed by a Division Bench of the High court which will examine the mental and physical condition of the said patient. After that, this report must be made available to close relatives of the patient or in the absence of the said patient, to a friend. After examining the report and hearing the opinion of relatives or friends, the court may decide on the withdrawal of life support. [3]

While this judgment legalizes passive euthanasia with the court’s permission, it does not legalize active euthanasia yet. Active euthanasia involves injecting a lethal dose of an injection to kill a patient, whereas passive euthanasia involves withdrawal of life support in order to cause the death of the patient. However, there are countries where active euthanasia is legal(like the Netherlands) and in my opinion, there can be detailed legislation implemented in India which legalizes active euthanasia while ensuring that euthanasia is given only when it is absolutely necessary. The law in the Netherlands may be understood in order to make a similar law for India.

The Dutch Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act is the legislation that governs the processes of euthanasia and assisted suicide. According to the legislation, all procedures of euthanasia have to be examined by a minimum three-member committee consisting of a legal expert, an ethicist, and a medical doctor. This procedure helps in preventing misuse of the euthanasia process. There are certain restrictions on the euthanasia of a minor as well. Minors may request to get euthanized after they turn 12, however, consent of their parents or guardian is necessary till they turn 16.

Another country where euthanasia is legal in Belgium. The law states that a necessary element was that the patient must be of sound mind and must express the decision of euthanasia voluntarily and must not be put under any duress. A 2014 amendment removed the criteria of legal age and the presence of maturity is not necessary to approve getting euthanized. Hence, any patient in Belgium can euthanize himself/herself with only certain restrictions apply for minors.

After understanding the opinions of the Supreme Court in the Aruna Shanbaug case and the Common Cause judgment, it can be concluded that the right to death is said to be a part of the right to life. While this may seem a little difficult to understand at first, it can be understood by the simple fact that just as individuals are given the right to life which cannot be taken away except according to provisions established by the law(Article 14 of the Indian Constitution also gives this right), all individuals should have the right to a peaceful death which is as painless as possible. This is an essential argument for the presence of euthanasia in any country. We as a society must give individuals the choice of death as well. Keeping alive patients who will never be able to recover from their ailments and will experience unbearable pain is inhumane and this should not be allowed to happen. However, the laws must be enforced properly to prevent misuse and it must only be done with the approval of medical experts.


[1] Writ Petition(Civil) No. 215 of 2005,

Accessed on 3rd March,2021

[2] 1996 AIR 946,1996 SCC(2)648,

Accessed on 3rd March,2021

[3] Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India (2011),

Writ Criminal Petition No. 115 of 2009

Accessed on 3rd March,2021


Sridhar Srinivasan

Symbiosis Law School, Noida

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