The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that the family of a person who dies after choosing to go against medical advice and opt out of treatment cannot be denied his insurance claim.

The landmark judgement on a case pertaining to a terminally ill poor patient describes such a decision on the patient’s part as ‘autonomy’ and ‘embracing dignity in death’.

The High Court Bench was dismissing the petition of the Oriental Insurance Company Ltd. and upholding the order of a claims tribunal which had directed the insurance firm to p ay Rs. 35.46 lakhs as damages to the deceased person’s family.

The insurance company had rejected the claim on the ground that an insured person who ‘leaves treatment against medical advice (LAMA)’ forfeits the right to the insured amount. Many insurance companies cite LAMA to deny the claims made by families of deceased persons.

The High Court Bench said “Whether the patient shall be allowed to die by withdrawal of life support is quite different from a patient expressing desire not to be treated. In the former, we are broaching issue of passive euthanasia and in the latter, it is an issue of patient autonomy.”


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