Post the Supreme Court's act of legalising  a 'living will' of an ailing person, seeking passive euthanasia, Indian Insurance regulator, IRDAI has said it plans to review the existing set of life and general insurnace laws, governing the terms and condition of policies, to allow claim payments of such a policy holder.


“We are aware of the limitations of the existing terms and conditions of policies to address a situation arising out of the SC judgement on living will and passive euthensia. We are reviewing them so that a policy holder can get his insurnace claims suppose he/she forced to opt for a `living will' under  unfortunate conditions,'' said a member of IRDAI, who doesn't want to be named, to Asia Insurance Post. .  


Going by the existing terms and conditions, Indian non-life insurers wouldn’t pay any death claims for a Personal Accident(PA) policy holder who opts for a 'living will' seeking passive euthanasia, though, that has now been given legal validity by the  Supreme Court last week. But, any expenses for the treatment before the death of such policy holder will be paid by these non-life insurers. 


For life insurers, any claim  out of “living will’’ be treated as a case of assisted suicide and no claims will be allowed within the first year of issuance of policy.


"If Euthanasia is viewed as ‘assisted suicide’, the death benefit of an insurance plan are not payable under the standard ‘suicide exclusion’ in the first year of policy only. In certain mature markets where such a law exists, death claims are paid in such cases provided it is after the first policy year and there is no undisclosed medical condition at the time of policy purchase. However, clarity is required in India on how the ‘living will’ of an insured would come into play to prevent its misuse, as the person who opted for the will is not in a position to make a decision," said V. Viswanand, COO and Senior Director, Max Life Insurance.


In a landmark judgment, a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra said passive euthanasia and advance living will are "permissible". Human beings 'have the right to die with dignity', the court said. 


“Any death out of a `living will’ would be treated as `voluntary death’ and no claims will be allowed under Personal Accident category. Only expenses for treatment will be allowed and not death benefits in such cases,’’ said a CEO of one of the large domestic general insurers.  


“There are no changes yet in the existing rules and regulations for life insurers- after the SC’s new stand on passive euthensia and –  who don’t pay any claims in case of suicide in the first year of the policy ,’’ said sources at IRDAI.


Another CEO of a general insurance company however said, the IRDAI should review the existing terms and conditions to bring about suitable changes to accommodate the new developemnt arising out of the SC judement on “living will''.     


In the past, the life insurance policy clause used to specify a period of three years- that is no claim payment would be entertained if policy holder committed suicide within three years of commencement of the policy, he said. 


However, from January 1, 2014, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India mandated the companies selling insurance policies to effect changes in their agreements to make provision for some payment to the kin even if a policy holder committed suicide.

Passive euthanasia is a condition where there is withdrawal of medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten the death of a terminally-ill patient.  It is legal in India unlike the controversial active Euthanasia, which entails use of lethal substances to either voluntarlity or involuntarily end a life. 


The top court said that directions and guidelines laid down by it and its directive shall remain in force till a legislation is brought on the issue.The CJI , while reading out the judgment, said that though there were four separate opinions of the bench but all the judges were unanimous that the 'living will' should be permitted since a person cannot be allowed to continue suffering in a comatose state when he or she doesn't wish to live. 


The SC said 'living will' will be permitted but with the permission from family members of the person who sought passive Euthanasia and also a team of expert doctors who say that the person's revival is practically impossible.


Living will is a written document that allows a patient to give explicit instructions in advance about the medical treatment to be administered when he or she is terminally ill or no longer able to express informed consent.


The five-judge bench said it has laid down guidelines on who would execute the will and how nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by the medical board. Its guidelines and directives shall remain in force till a legislation is brought to deal with the issue.