New Delhi: Terming active euthanasia as illegal, the Supreme Court on Monday rejected the petition for mercy killing of Mumbai nurse Aruna Shanbaug, while paving the way for possible passive euthanasia in the future.

An Apex Court bench of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra delivered the verdict and rejected a petition moved on Shanbaug's behalf by her friend and social activist Pinki Virani.

While, Justice Katju maintained that active euthanasia was illegal as there was no statutory provision to support it, the court passed the buck onto the Bombay High Court saying, “Passive euthanasia is permissible under certain conditions with the approval of the high court.”

Active euthanasia is a state where a patient is given a lethal injection to bring him to sleep, while passive euthanasia involves withdrawing the life support system from a patient.

It further said that the high court would grant its approval after getting the opinion of three eminent doctors, the government and close relatives of the terminally ill patient.

The court said though Virani was performing a laudable social service, the staff, doctors and nurses of Mumbai's King Edward Memorial Hospital, where Shanbaug is admitted, have a greater right over her and only they can decide whether to opt for passive euthanasia or not.

“She (Virani) cannot claim to be as close and attached to Aruna Shanbaug as King Edward Memorial Hospital staff and nurses,” the bench ruled.

Aruna, 60, slipped into coma after a brutal attack on her at the Hospital by a staffer on November 27, 1973.

For the past 37 years after the incident Aruna has become "featherweight" and her bones are brittle. She is prone to bed sores.


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