Common Cause (A Regd. Society) vs. Union of India
CITATION WP (C) 215/2005
The Writ Petition preferred under Article 32 of the Constitution of India by Common Cause, a
registered society, seeks to declare ―right to die with dignity as a fundamental right within the
fold of ―right to live with dignity guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution; to issue
directions to the respondents to adopt suitable procedure in consultation with the State
Governments, where necessary; to ensure that persons of deteriorated health or terminally ill
patients should be able to execute a document titled ―My Living Will and Attorney
Authorisation which can be presented to the hospital for appropriate action in the event of the
executant being admitted to the hospital with serious illness which may threaten termination of
life of the executant; to appoint a committee of experts including doctors, social scientists and
lawyers to study into the aspect of issuing guidelines as to the ―Living Wills; and to issue such
further appropriate directions and guidelines as may be necessary.
The right to die with dignity as a fundamental right has already been declared by the Constitution
Bench in the judgment of Gian Kaur case which we reiterate; Article 21 of the Constitution
guaranteed the right to a dignified life unto the point of death including a dignified procedure of
Euthanasia has been derived from the Greek word “Eu Thanatos”, which means “good death”.
There are two ways to seek euthanasia viz. passive and active. In passive euthanasia, there is the
withdrawal of medical treatment of terminally ill patients, whereas, in active euthanasia,
injections or overdose of medicines is given to hasten their death, which is illegal in India.
Passive euthanasia is considered morally superior to active euthanasia since it means allowing
the patient to die and not killing him.
We declare that an adult human being having the mental capacity to make an informed decision
has the right to refuse medical treatment including withdrawal from life-saving devices.
A person of competent mental faculty is entitled to execute an advance medical directive in
accordance with the safeguards.