Mumbai: SC Directs Custodians To Safeguard Living Wills

Mumbai: SC Directs Custodians To Safeguard Living Wills

In keeping with the Supreme Court directive, the State government has appointed custodians to safeguard “living wills”.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Friday, March 08, 2024, 11:32 AM IST
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Supreme Court of India | File

In keeping with the Supreme Court directive, the State government has appointed custodians to safeguard “living wills”. 

A living will is a written, legal document that spells out medical treatments one would and would not want used to keep one alive, as well as preferences for other medical decisions, such as pain management or organ donation. 

Affidavait Filed Before Bombay HC

An affidavit was filed before the Bombay High Court by deputy secretary to the urban development department Sushila Pawar. The affidavit states that as per the directions of the SC, the state government has taken steps to appoint “Custodian for the document of Medical Directives”. A chart is attached with the affidavit specifying the name of the designated officer in most of the wards of the municipal corporations, municipal councils and gram panchayats in the state. As per the chart, 388 custodians have been appointed in the state of Maharashtra. 

“It is humbly submitted that the direction mentioned above has been given effect to by the Urban Development Authority and that a competent official is appointed as a Custodian for safekeeping of the Medical Directives,” the affidavit read. 

Affidavit Filed In Response To PIL

The affidavit was filed in response to a PIL filed by Dr Nikhil Datar, a gynaecologist and a judicial activist, seeking implementation of the SC directive that simplified the guidelines of passive euthanasia and also sought that the state government and the BMC be directed to appoint a custodian for the same. 

It adds that the authorities have taken steps to give publicity to the provisions of the medical directives and the appointment of the Custodian. The State, by letter dated February 26 and 29, addressed to all the Municipal Corporation /Municipality/ Panchayat for giving publicity in order to benefit the public at large. “That some of the Corporations have also taken steps in this regard,” the affidavit adds. 

PIL Filed By Dr Nikhil Datar

The PIL filed by Dr Nikhil Datar, a gynaecologist and a judicial activist, seeks implementation of the Supreme Court (SC) directive that simplified the guidelines of passive euthanasia and also sought that the state government and the BMC be directed to appoint a custodian for the same.

Datar had told a bench headed by Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya in January that he learnt through the Right to Information that no such authority has been appointed by the state or the BMC. He emphasised that his PIL is to give effect to SC order which recognised the “right to die by dignity”. 

Datar’s PIL has added the Ministry of Information and Technology as a respondent to the PIL as they have digi-lockers where such living wills can be stored and accessed when required. The PIL highlights ambiguity surrounding the custodian responsible for safeguarding these important documents within the local administration. 

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