Citizens' Issues
When You Are ‘Dead’, while Still Alive
Dad collapsed at lunch. We were at home and rushed him to hospital. One of Bombay’s best doctors, son of mom’s friend, immediately examined dad, on the lobby floor. ‘Khotto sikko chey,’ he said. A ‘counterfeit coin’. He gave us two days, to make ‘preparations’. Did dad have a Will? No. Was he going to make one? No. Frankly, his love for us was worth more than the billions he could not give. We simply did not care. 
 
Should our family have been worried? A definite ‘Yes’. A big ‘YES’. We have had a lot of seminars at Moneylife, dealing with Wills. The one thing we learn from them is that we cannot foresee everything. We have to do the best we can.
 
Dad, being dad, came home a month later. But we knew better. A wooden nickel. Did we do anything then? No. A month later, we were back in hospital. This time, we knew for sure. The doctor asked us to forego all artificial resuscitation. It may then last for years, he explained. Mom agreed. No suffering.           
 
We kept vigil. Day and night. One night, while I was sleeping on the bench in the corridor, a junior doctor, uninformed, started resuscitation. By then, dad was in a coma. When I awoke, I panicked. Dad was entombed in equipment, cylinders, pipes and meters. I called our doctor. We had agreed on letting him pass silently into the night.
 
You be the judge. What should the doctor have done? He refused to withdraw the tubes. Tantamount to murder, he explained. No matter what, it could not be done.
 
This is where a ‘Living Will’ comes handy. A bit of a misnomer, the Will is not alive. It is a set of instructions drawn up, in case of an emergency, usually a medical situation. Means and methods to be set in motion when the ‘testator’ is not able to care for himself. While a Will ‘speaks from the grave’, a Living Will speaks when the deponent, while still alive, is unable to speak for himself.
 
A Living Will must be carefully drawn up. Think of everything possible. Where is the money to come from? How much is to be spent? Who will have access to it and how is it to be allocated? What of Mediclaim? Will the insurer play ball? Is your doctor in the know and has he been consulted on the medical costs and possibilities of care? Most importantly, does the Will specify, if so desired, that artificial means must not be used under any circumstance? Have you indemnified the person whom you have entrusted to ‘execute’ the Living Will? He could face a lot of flak just by following your instructions. Is there more than one agent to do your bidding? Always wiser to appoint a second line of defence, an arm’s length person. A close relative may be involved in the same accident as the deponent. 
 
Then there are religious rituals that one may need, when close to death. These need be detailed, priests named. If one has donated one’s organs, someone needs to inform the hospital or agency when the end arrives. Eyes, especially, have to be recovered immediately, to gift their sight to others.
 
There is always the possibility that the hospital, fearing legal reprisals, may not follow your instructions. Make sure that the matter is cleared beforehand with the hospital and its lawyers. Maybe leave a copy with the doctors or the hospital management.
 
Above all, consult your lawyer, especially one who understands the special and specific implications. Have you signed the document? The law is silent on the need for witnesses, but it is best to get the attestation done. Take due care. Dad was put off the ventilator when he stabilised. He passed away one night, two months later, peacefully in his sleep. 
 
For those who may want to prepare a Living Will, let us pray that it is never put to use. Also remember, it has no legal sanctity as yet, but it acts as a guide for your loved ones and your doctors on what to do, if you are no longer capable of spelling it out yourself.
 

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COMMENTS

Sunil Rebello

1 year ago

YES.. I understand..the Law is not on our side.
it is only the love of our loved ones who can take decisions for us when we are not capable to do so.
we had 2 cases in the Hospital near by.. a poor patient.. who was admitted late evening - brain dead, after a massive heart attack. the NGO who she was under wrote a letter to the Hospital management, the next morning informing them that she was a person in need and cannot afford to pay any Hospital Bills. FYG she was kept 3 days more on the ventilator and she passed away peacefully. No Doctor or Family could take the decision to take her out of the support system. No Bill yet from the Hospital.
the next case was a high ranking person admitted to the same Hospital in the same situation. He also was kept in the same situation for around 12-15 days. His hands and feet started swelling, but no Doctor or family could take a decision the man passed away and they were hit with a Hospital bill running in Lakhs.
It is a very hard decision but we as family of our near and dear ones should take difficult decision with much empathy and prayer. Looking at the best interest of the patient.
Lastly there was the case of the raped nurse at KEM who was kept under similar situation for 16 years by interested parties. But who to blame?

YOGEESH RAO V

1 year ago

can you give me a draft of a Living Will and how to go about it...

Sunil Rebello

1 year ago

Dear Money Life,
can you give us a draft of a Living Will and how to go about it..
Best Regards

REPLY

Bapoo Malcolm

In Reply to Sunil Rebello 1 year ago

No. That's not possible. Have clearly written that you need to consult a lawyer. The matter is too dicey. The article shows you a possibility, an introduction. We do understand that "everything" is available on the net. And it's FREE ! But as my father-in-law used to say,"Whatever is free is always very expensive". Please think of the possibilities, the permutations and the combinations.

The day this article was published, a newspaper article talked of doctors refusing to acknowledge Living Wills. You may try with a 'draft', yourself; most of the points are given, but, if you fortunately survive, you may face loads of troubles. Litigation, too, maybe.

Even I, who is making his own living will, am facing problems of compliance. Maybe, I could then circulate it. But it can never be copied as each will be so different.

Sorry!

S A Narayan

In Reply to Bapoo Malcolm 1 year ago

Currently in the absence of acceptability of living wills, doctors and hospitals are ever ready to put patients on ventilator or other intrusive and aggressive intervention as long as they are assured that the bills will be paid. People are seeking legitimacy of living wills more to state what they dont want doctors to do just to keep a body alive at any cost. Therefore medical costs etc issues and insurance complications etc for medicare may not arise. I presume that access to money etc during course of treatment and thereafter would be be available to jt./ac holder to discharge obligations of payment.
In anycase thwe maker of the living will must take a few near and close relatives, spouse into confidence and seek commitment to comply at the right time. But the draft bill expressly says that the living will will not be binding on doctors. that must be made to change.

Bapoo Malcolm

1 year ago

Moneylife has been bringing, to its readers, legal topics much ahead of their becoming important. The latest issue talks of the very problem that is in the Times this morning. That of euthanasia. Moneylife readers should take this opportunity to put forward their views on living wills and their mandatory implementation just as normal wills. Will try and get the agency and its address to whom one may write.

REPLY

S A Narayan

In Reply to Bapoo Malcolm 1 year ago

The address is [email protected]
If more and more people submit suggestions re legalising 'living will' govt will have to listen.
The address to send suggestions is [email protected]

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Students have no Right to Know about RTI in Rajasthan!
The lesson in the 8th standard text book on Social Sciences of Rajasthan State Board schools was titled `Kanuno ki samajh’ (knowledge of Laws) and the lesson was about the citizens’ historic movement to bring in the Right to Information (RTI) legislation in Rajasthan. Led by Aruna Roy, the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) in village Devdungri of Rajasthan had sowed the seeds of an era of transparency and right to information, inspiring enough, for Rajasthan’s education committee to include it in the Social Sciences curriculum.
 
The Rajasthan government, however, seems to think that this knowledge would empower citizens of tomorrow, who may demand accountability from the rulers and thus may have decided to nip this education, in the bud. RTI has been removed from the Rajasthan text books. Activists across Rajasthan are piqued with this decision and are demanding an explanation from the state government.
 
 
Aruna Roy, in a letter dated 15 May 2016, to CS Rajan, Chief Secretary of Rajasthan, writes, “In the hurry to re-write history and manipulate textbooks for political reasons, the government is hurting the sentiments of ordinary people, burying the truth and actually attempting to obliterate acknowledgement of a contribution that should be of pride to the whole state.”
 
Roy demanded that “the changes to the text book be put on hold and an open dialogue be established to determine if there is any need for amending text books, and if so, what these amendments should be.”
 
An RTI application has been filed by Kamal Tank, a citizen, on 10th May to the Primary School Department seeking copies of decision of the proposal to remove the chapter, report of the Committee, if it has been instituted for this purpose and copy of the decision of the fate of the second hand books, in case the chapter gets deleted.
 
The Suchna Evum Rojgar Ka Adhikar Abhiyan, in a press note, has stated that, this seems to be political motive and this decision has hurt the sentiments of the citizens, who are very proud of this historic campaign. The organisation protests against keeping people in the dark, before making an outrageous decision.
 
Noted RTI activist, Subhash Chandra Agrawal, states, “It is definitely a step in reverse direction. Rather Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) should co-ordinate with Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MoHRD) to ensure incorporating chapters on RTI in school text-books of all the states to develop student from schools to become informed citizens for not only availing their rights through RTI Act but also performing their duty to use the transparency-Act in larger national and public good.”
 
Agrawal suggested that the central government should modify RTI rules for copying charges to ensure that first 20 copied pages are part of basic RTI fees (say Rs50) but uniformly for all public-authorities and states with no provision for any more fees payable at stage of first or second appeals. “Attractive RTI stamps in denominations of Rs2, Rs10 and Rs50 can be introduced along the lines of erstwhile radio and TV license fees stamps not only to save funds on handling postal-orders (handling cost rupees Rs37.45 per postal-order) but also to popularise the Act,” he says.
 
It may be recalled that in the late 2000s, Maharashtra government had taken up the issue of including RTI lesson in the secondary school curriculum. However, after much media hype, the proposal went into oblivion.
 
Roy rightly reminds the government that, “I do not need to remind the government about the fundamental role played by ordinary people and peoples’ movements in Rajasthan, in fashioning the RTI for the whole country. This contribution is acknowledged and is part of many curricula the world over, including the Kennedy School of Governance in Harvard and in eminent universities in Europe and the Americas…We would like to know what was objectionable to warrant blacking it out.”
 
Sure, the government needs to provide a lot of explanation for removing RTI chapters from school textbooks.
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)

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COMMENTS

B. Yerram Raju

1 year ago

More essential for students up to 10th class to learn is the lessons on spirit of oneness, nationalism, loyalty and the moral fabric of India. Several states have sacrificed this content. Learning in law should commence from the 11th class. Civics used to be an important subject in the past right from 8th standard. Today civics has become a matter of history. When civics is taught with civic sense, behavioural dynamics of youth will engage in useful societal activities with a spirit of voluntarism. Reading the Acts and understanding them would become a habit thereafter. It is time the activists turn their attention on kindling the enthusiasm of the youth into productive activities for a healthy society.

GLN Prasad

1 year ago

With due respects to the great activists, it is not proper to think that because it was removed from syllabus, RTI Act interest is sacrificed. There are many laws which are more relevant to students but are not included in syllabus. It is also not proper to conclude because it is not prescribed in 8th class text book, those students who care more general awareness miss the utility of RTI Act. It makes no difference and all this is much ado about nothing. How many of us remember and recollect those lessons studied in 8th class ? In how many cases such RTI Act help students in 8th class ?

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