Additional Solicitor General Siddhartha Luthra told a bench of Chief Justice P.Sathasivam, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh that section 6.7 of Medical Council of India Regulations while prohibiting mercy deaths, permits it in certain situations.
He said that because of this provision, the court could not frame Vishaka-like guidelines done for protecting women from sexual harassment at work places as there was vacuum on penal provisions on this count.
Luthra told the court that any interpretation of the constitution’s article 21 (protection of life and liberty) on this count has got to be referred to a larger bench.
At this, the court asked Luthra: “Suppose after thorough examination, doctors come to conclusion that the patient will not revive and the relatives of the patient are not in a position to continue the treatment, then what would happen in that situation?”
Luthra said what the court had said could be valid in extreme situations but if in a society, they allow a life to be lost merely because the family is unable to take care of the patient, then it would be a very serious situation.
Appearing for the petitioner NGO Common Cause, counsel Prashant Bhushan said that they are merely asking that a person should be able to make a choice and tell the doctors attending him that in case his condition deteriorates and slips into coma and is in an irrecoverable conditions, then no treatment should be forced on him and he be allowed mercy death.
Bhushan told the court that the right to refuse medical treatment was an absolute right and could not be taken away on the grounds that it may result in death.
He argued it was the right of the patient to refuse treatment and opt for death, adding forcible treatment had social connotations as it deprives others waiting for medical attention of medical care.
Upon the conclusion of arguments, the court reserved the verdict.