How not to talk about passive euthanasia: A lesson from India

Iain Brassington

DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2020.75


The 2011 Shanbaug case has proved to be very important in shaping the debates about end-of-life care and assisted dying in India. Ostensibly dealing with the question of whether it was permissible to withdraw treatment from a patient in a persistent vegetative state, it became a case about the legality of passive euthanasia, which is how it was treated by the Law Commission of India in 2012, and by the Supreme Court bench considering the Common Cause case in 2018. However, questions about the legality of passive euthanasia depend on whether we have a coherent definition of “passive euthanasia”. In this paper, I argue that such a definition was absent from both the Shanbaug and the Common Cause rulings. As a result, they are highly unreliable.

Keywords: Passive euthanasia, Shanbaug case, persistent vegetative state, active euthanasia

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