Under a humane Constitution
- This is about Right to die with dignity, Last week, in Common Cause v. Union of India, the Supreme Court ruled that every individual has the right to die with dignity.
- This is that the practice of passive euthanasia the removal of life-support mechanisms from persons who, for the most part, have slipped into a persistent vegetative state in order to allow them to die.
About the case:
- In individual’s choice It has been called the “living wills case”, the “passive euthanasia case”, the “right to die with dignity case”, or even simply the “euthanasia case”.
- While all these descriptors are accurate, there is, however, a more fundamental principle that unites the four separate and detailed opinions in Common Cause.
- In Common Cause, the context was that of medical intervention. Medical intervention, however, is only one offshoot of a world that is now defined and constituted by technology.
Consequently, if the right to privacy, self-determination and choice means anything in the age of technology, it surely means this:
- Individuals have the right to engage with technological systems on their own terms
- The right to opt into or opt out of such systems without suffering for it.
- The right not to be subjected to technological intervention without being given meaningful choice.
The principle of technological self-determination:
- The right of every individual to determine how, on what terms, and to what extent, she will engage with technological systems.
- The link between the constitutional values of choice and self-determination, and the concrete issue of the engagement between the individual and technological systems (in the context of medical intervention) was explained by all the judges.
- The Chief Justice noted that “the recognition of the freedom of competent adults to make choices about their medical care necessarily encompasses recognition of the right to make choices since individual free choice and self-determination are themselves fundamental constituents of life.
- The principle, however, may merit some reconsideration, because even with the best of motives, it involves the court stepping into the legislative sphere.
- The Constitutional Court of South Africa is empowered to declare a legal provision unconstitutional, but also give the legislature some breathing space to remedy the defect before the judgment actually comes into force.
- Similarly, in cases where the Indian Supreme Court finds a legislative vacuum, it could (like it has done in Common Cause) issue guidelines, but suspend their operation for a period of a few months, giving Parliament an opportunity to consider the guidelines, and take action.