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Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union of India 2011

Case Summary


The case of Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India (2011) is a landmark legal proceeding that addresses the issue of euthanasia and passive euthanasia in India. Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, had been in a persistent vegetative state for over 37 years after being sexually assaulted and strangled by a ward boy in 1973. In 2011, the Supreme Court of India heard a petition seeking permission for passive euthanasia to end Shanbaug's suffering.


In its judgment delivered in 2011, the Supreme Court of India declined to grant permission for active euthanasia but allowed for passive euthanasia under certain strict conditions. The court held that the withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment, such as artificial nutrition and hydration, could be permitted for patients in a permanent vegetative state or those suffering from irreversible terminal illness, provided certain safeguards were in place. The judgment emphasized the importance of protecting the dignity and autonomy of patients and recognized the right to die with dignity as an inherent aspect of the right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.


The judgment in Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India had significant implications for medical ethics, end-of-life care, and the rights of patients in India. It provided clarity on the legal and ethical considerations surrounding euthanasia and established guidelines for the withdrawal of life support in certain circumstances. The case sparked public debate and discussion on the delicate balance between the right to life and the right to die with dignity, prompting calls for legislative reforms to address end-of-life issues comprehensively. Additionally, the judgment underscored the need for robust mechanisms to protect the interests of vulnerable patients and ensure that decisions regarding euthanasia are made with utmost caution and respect for human dignity.

List of Linked Cases:

Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab (1996)

Common Cause (A Regd. Society) v. Union of India (2018)

Pinki Virani v. Union of India (2011)

Rathinam v. Union of India (1994)

State of Maharashtra v. Maruty Sripati Dubal (1987)

Suchita Srivastava v. Chandigarh Administration (2009)

These cases, among others, reference or rely upon the principles established in Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India, highlighting its enduring impact on Indian medical jurisprudence and the rights of patients facing end-of-life decisions.