4 Responses to “Should Bud dhists Endorse Euthanasia?”
4 Responses to "Should Buddhists Endorse Euthanasia?"
Here are some interesting responses to the article, followed by replies to them…
Reader 1: Errmmm... the person who can still practise in great pain might already be a saint… I thought the 'middle path' would be better when we die? If our last thought is so important, wouldn't it be better to die in peace, than in great pain and misery? Negative karma may not be expended, but do let people clear their karma in moderation - if opportunities arise in their next life. I do not endorse suicide, but neither do I feel that euthanasia is not an option.
Editor: There's no need to be a saint to be able to practise well, while practice makes perfect. But what needed here is not even "perfect" practice – or one would be a Buddha already. The article mentioned this - "The excess administering of mind-numbing painkillers might not be a good idea too - since one's mindfulness is crucial for giving rise to good or pure thoughts for a better rebirth" - which would imply that the moderate use of painkillers should be okay if they do not cause much unmindfulness. Dying confused with an unclear mind from too much drugs makes it less likely to have a good rebirth.
Euthanasia is suicide in spirit as it sees death as a release, when it merely hastens rebirth. As the article says, "It can even affect one's reborn state adversely, resulting in sickliness." This sickliness can be from birth - which leads to prolonged suffering instead. Ending one life in an ill manner, the next life begins ill too. We can think of this as, say, not maintaining a car well, before driving off quickly. When one hits the highway with an ill-tended car, it has to struggle for the rest of the journey with no turning back, with no way of getting to a nearby garage (for repair) ahead. In short, craving for an early escape from one life can lead to even more suffering in the next. As such, euthanasia is not the middle path of moderation – it is an extreme practice based on wrong views.
Reader 2: It is much easier said than done - accepting extreme pain and suffering with grace. As much as I support 100% for "no killing", I would like to look at euthanasia as a choice each individual can take. I accepted Buddhism is because of its generosity to let people make choices.
If one has the wisdom to understand suffering is not suffering if your mind doesn't see it as suffering, then s/he will not entertain euthanasia in the first place. For those who look into this option, they obviously are not well-practised. So why let them suffer so much? Let them have a more peaceful mind to go, and with a peaceful mind, they will be in a better place to start the next life and hopefully s/he will practise the path.
Editor: Yes, Buddhism speaks of generosity, but it speaks of wisdom and compassion too. The truth is, no religion can prevent us from making choices – on how we deal with others and ourselves. In fact, no one can escape from choice. Even the person who has life support turned off against his or her will has the choice of how to position the mind. If one has wisdom on the nature of death and rebirth, while another has not, one should do one's best to share the wisdom with the latter. It's compassion in action.
About this idea - "For those who look into this option obviously not so into practice... why let them suffer so much?"... Here is the reply (from the article) - "when there is unresolved negative karma that conditioned anguish via sickness, it will resume in one's future life." In this sense, it is not true that euthanasia lead to "a more peaceful mind" or that "they will be in a better place to start the next life…" If it is so simple to restart to get a fresh and good life on a better footing, I suspect most would have committed suicide already.. and continually do so from life to life. But that obviously is an action based on wrong views.
Reader 3: A friend was diagnosed with fourth stage cancer. Treatment took away every bit of energy and fun in life. She decided to let go as she felt she had lived a very full life and has no more regrets. She explored euthanasia as she didn't want to suffer unnecessarily anymore. She wanted her dignity, and didn't want loved ones to go through suffering.
Editor: There are cases where euthanasia takes place at the exact moment the negative karma for experiencing pain from dying peters out. But as it is hard to know when this moment is, which makes it unwise to choose euthanasia. There are some patients who crave for death… but when conditions change shortly, they no longer crave to die. Strong craving (which is different from, say, a pure aspiration to be reborn in Pure Land) does not lead to a good rebirth. Dying with dignity is being able to die in good time peacefully, not in a hastened way. However, since she was in the last stage of cancer, it was wise to prepare for death – not via euthanasia though.
Reader 3: I respected her decision for euthanasia. We talked about it and I could sense incredible peace in her. She was letting herself float instead of keep trying to swim and struggle. She planned her funeral and spoke about many things she cared deeply for. Interestingly, within a week, she left this world peacefully… without euthanasia!
Editor: Yes, though we can offer our advice best we can, we still need to respect the patient's decision. There was no euthanasia needed in this case as the karma for being alive in pain wore out in time, while her mind was able to be at peace. This is very fortunate. This is what Buddhism advocates – brave and peaceful acceptance of dying – without hastened death (including euthanasia) with lots of fretful anguish.
Reader 4: Is it okay for me to brave the pains of organ donation upon death? Is it okay for me to just listen to doctors' advice on whether to switch life support apparatus off for family members? Is it okay for me to urge loved ones who are dying to fight to survive? Is it okay to promise the dying they will be reborn in Pure Land?
Editor: Undergoing organ donations while the consciousness is in the body after death will be about 7 times (according to some accounts) more painful than usual physical pain – due to magnified sharpness of the senses. Please consider well. Leave the body swiftly. If not, it's not wise to donate organs while wanting a good rebirth. The Pure Land practice can help ensure swift exit. Doctors' advice for switching off life support is not always accurate – due to the difficulty of detecting one's consciousness. A friend was told by a doctor that her mother had become vegetable, that he should consider switching her off. However, five hours later, she woke up. The workings of karma is complex. If one believes karma in such a case should and would take its natural cause no matter what one does, one would not need to turn off life support, as doing so has irreversible consequences. It would be switching off hope and life. While we should not cling to the lives of others, we should not turn off their hope either.
We should not urge the supposedly dying to "fight to live" because this can spur painful attachment to life when physical conditions for being alive might be running out. This strong desire generated might not lead to a good rebirth, especially if unfulfilled. We should just ask the person to, say, be mindful of Amituofo (Amitabha Buddha). "By the power of Amituofo's blessings, if there is chance to recover, may I recover swiftly. By the power of Amituofo's blessings, if there is no chance to recover, may I be reborn in Pureland swiftly." After reciting this for the patient to hear and understand, we should chant Amituofo with the person. One should advise that if one is mindful of Amituofo well, s/he will surely be reborn in Pure Land, as this is promised by all Buddhas. A concise summary of the Pure Land teachings to inspire faith might be needed.
Should Buddhists Endorse Euthanasia?
Should I Donate My Organs Upon Death?
Of Euthanasia, AMD and HOTA
Clause in HOTA Opt-Out Form
What's Useful on My Deathbed?
How Mental States Affect Rebirth
Dynamics of Karma in Pure Land Practice When Dying (While Sleeping)
The Spiritual Obstacles of Extreme Suffering & Complacency
Would You Prefer to Know When You'll Die?
Always Living in the End of Days