[Buddha-l] Buddhist Bioethics

Michael Paris parisjm2004 at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 14 08:03:53 MDT 2005

That brings to mind a photographic documentary entitled "Gramps,"
published many years ago in Life magazine, if memory serves. 

An elderly man, living at home with his family, had become very
debilitated. He decided it was time to go, and quit eating. He of
course discussed this with the family first.

Closer to home, one of my aunts (age 93) apparently willed herself into
a coma. She also was debilitated, requiring daily attendance by my
mother. She  would have had to go to a nursing home, which many times
she swore she'd never do. 

My mother found her one morning, alive but unresponsive. Took her to
the hospital. The doctor and staffed offered the hospice, where she
could go in peace. And that's how it happened. She was only there a few

Interestingly enough, she passed away alone. My mother was with her
most of the day and early evening, but one afternoon she had errands to
run, and came back to find her gone. 

My father passed away in the cardiac care unit. His heart simply
failed. He'd already had two bypasses, but there was no life left in
his ticker. So he died in his sleep with my mother and me nearby. We
were sad, but happy for him. At home he could barely get to the
bathroom without getting exhausted. No quality of life left.

Seems to me that ending suffering encompasses much more than so-called
"enlightenment." Seems to me that enlightenment is much more than
having some sort of mystical experience. Much, much more; or perhaps
much, much less.


--- jkirk <jkirk at spro.net> wrote:


> I have in mind here the practice being resorted to by some elderly
people  who have incurable disease, with death as the predicted end,
who decide to  begin fasting with the aim of eventually ceasing to eat
and drink altogether. The reasons they give for this procedure are not
singular, but  usually include compassion for others--usually kinfolk,
usually only one  person in many cases, usually a daughter not a
son--who would be forced by  circumstances to stand by and care for
such patients, often for unknown  durations. They also include
compassion for themselves, in that by pursuing self-euthanasia they can
maintain dignity and awareness until the end,  unlike what would happen
if they sink into a vegetative state or develop full-blown brain
disease with senility.
> Under such circumstances, to insist on ethical grounds on the medical
intervention of keeping the dying body alive as long as possible, or to
ethically condemn its dying other than by leaving it to its own
devices, strikes me as social torture. 
> Joanna

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