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UPSC News : Daily Current Affairs for IAS, February 1, 2016

1. Government expresses willingness to frame law on Euthanasia 
 
After 14 years of debate over this issue, the centre expressed its willingness to frame a law on Passive Euthanasia. 
 
It also claimed that a pending litigation in the Supreme Court on this issue was a hindrance in this process. 
 
The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare filed an affidavit providing an insight into the views of the Government on this matter. 
 
As per the affidavit, after debates from July 2014 to June 2015, an expert panel made changes and cleared the formulation of legislation  on Passive Euthanasia.
 
The Expert Panel however has rejected the demand for legalising Active Euthanasia. It argued that this would lead to potential misuse and is being practised in “very few countries worldwide”
 
This issue is under consideration of the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court since February 2014.
 
The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare consulted the law ministry if it would be appropriate to frame legislation over a matter under the consideration of the Supreme Court and decided to "stay its hands"
 
What is Passive Euthanasia?
The term "passive euthanasia" used by the Supreme Court in its verdict on Aruna Shanbaug's case is defined as the withdrawal of medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten a terminally ill-patient's death.
 
It can involve stopping medication, turning respirators off, discontinuing food & water, administering large doses of morphine. 
 
What is Active Euthanasia?
Active Euthanasia is the intentional act of putting a terminally-ill patient to death. It involves helping the patient to die on the basis of a request by either the patient of those close to him or her, usually direct family members.
 
A very well known case of active euthanasia is one of a terminally ill Michigan patient on September 17, 1998. Dr. Jack Kevorkian videotaped himself administering a lethal medication to Thomas Youk, 52, who suffered with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
 
Brief Background:
 
This issue has been under discussion for 14 years now. The debate on legalising and regulating euthanasia began with a Lok Sabha private member’s Bill – The Euthanasia (Regulation) Bill, 2002 pushed by Uttamrao Nathuji Dhikale.
 
After the the 196th Law Commission Report on euthanasia was made public and the drafting of the Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill, 2006 began, this debate started all over again.
 
It was, at that time, opposed by the Ministry of Health & family welfare for its experts under the Director General Health Services felt that this amounted to “intentional killing” and was against the Hippocratic oath. This Oath was written by Hippocrates and is still held sacred by physicians: to treat the ill to the best of one's ability, to preserve a patient's privacy, to teach the secrets of medicine to the next generation
 
At that time, Euthanasia was even viewed as an act against progressive medical science’s objective to rehabilitate and treat patients. 
 
However, all of this changed following the Supreme Court issuing comprehensive guidelines allowing passive euthanasia in the case of Aruna Shanbaug. She was taken care of by the entire staff of KEM Hospital till her natural death last year.
 
These guidelines were accepted by the Government. Following this, the Law Commission’s 241st Report recommended a re-look at passive euthanasia in 2012.
 
It took two years for the Law Commission to draft a new legislation over this matter – The Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill. The Ministry had received the draft Bill in April 2014 and begun its task to fine-tune the law. 
 
Topics Covered as per IAS Exam Pattern: IAS Mains: General Studies Paper 2
IAS Syllabus: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
 
 
2. Marshall Islands sue Britain, India and Pakistan over nuclear weapons
 
 
The Marshall Islands, officially the Republic of the Marshall Islands has filed a lawsuit against Britain, India & Pakistan. These three countries have been accused of failing to halt the race towards acquiring Nuclear Arms.
 
The Marshall Islands is an island country located in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. The country is geographically a part of the island group of Micronesia
 
The lawsuit originally against 8 countries: China, United States, Russia, India, Pakistan, Britain, Israel & North Korea, has been filed in the International Court of Justice, which is the highest court of the United Nations. 
 
The Court however took up only the cases filed against India, Pakistan & Britain, for these three nations recognise the authority of the International Court of Justice.
 
The Island Nation claims that by not stopping the nuclear arms race, these nations have been breaching their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This, despite the fact that India & Pakistan have not even signed the NPT. 

The decision to sue the heavyweights of the world by the small Island Nation came particularly in the wake of the awareness of Marshall Islands' around the consequences of Nuclear Weapons. 
 
What connects Marshall Islands & the use of Nuclear Weapons?
The Island Nation has a history with the use of its territory for conducting Nuclear Tests. Authorities claim that its territory was extensively used by the United States to conduct repeated nuclear tests during 1946-1958 time period.
 
It is important to highlight the the devastating effects of the Hydrogen Bomb Test conducted by United States on 1st of March 1954. As part of the intense cold war nuclear arms race, the 15-MT Bravo test was a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It vaporised an island & exposed thousands in the surrounding area to radioactive fallout.
 
Topics Covered as per IAS Exam Pattern: IAS Mains: General Studies Paper 2
IAS Syllabus: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
 
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