Recently, Justice M.S. Sonak, serving on the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court, became the first person in Goa to register a “living will”.

What is a ‘Living will’?

A living will is a legal document that individuals can create while they are alive, outlining their preferences for medical treatment if they become terminally ill in the future. 

  • It doesn’t involve property disposal during one’s life or after death. 
  • It is different from a last will and testament which is a formal, legal declaration of the intention of individuals with respect to their property which they desire to be carried into effect after their death. 

This document becomes relevant if the individual is in a vegetative state and unable to communicate their wishes regarding medical care.
In a vegetative state, a person is awake but is showing no signs of awareness.

  • Essentially, a living will empower individuals to ensure they can pass away with dignity if they’re unable to make decisions for themselves.

Background of the issue:

In 2018, the Supreme Court made passive euthanasia legal, but under specific conditions: 

  • Individuals must have a “living will,” a written document stating their medical preferences if they can’t decide for themselves later on.
    Passive euthanasia: It involves intentionally causing someone’s death by refraining from providing or discontinuing artificial life support, like a ventilator, to a terminally ill patient. 
  • This decision allowed terminally ill patients, who might enter a permanent vegetative state, to have their living wills recognized. 
  • In 2023, the SC modified its judgment to simplify the process of euthanasia by removing the involvement of judicial magistrates.
    These guidelines will remain in force until Parliament enacts a law on the subject. 
  • Goa is the first state that has formalised, to some extent, the implementation of the directives issued by the Supreme Court.

Procedure for making a living will in Goa:

  • According to the guidelines, anyone wishing to create a living will must follow a specific format and draft it in front of two witnesses. 
  • After drafting, it needs certification by a gazetted officer or notary. 
  • Subsequently, it should be sent to the main Mamlatdar of the taluka, who will then forward it to the nodal officer designated by the District Collector for safekeeping.

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