[Buddha-l] Ethical Dilemmas and DeathPenaltiesandmaliciouszombies for governor.

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Tue Jun 15 02:41:39 MDT 2010

Dear Stefan,

>Would they carry the same reasoning to euthanasia? Here in Belgium
> it is respected, at least by law, to sign a paper saying you don't want to
> go through the suffering of decaying and that you're prepared to be put to
> death with medical assistance.

Euthenasia, as far as I know, has only been legalized in the states of 
Oregon, Washington, and maybe Montana -- their assisted suicide laws require 
various criteria be met. For instance

What one finds, instead, in most states is something called a "living will," 
which is a legal document one can compose and sign that explains that one 
wants no heroic measures of life extension. There is a standard generic 
version that one can often find in a stationary store or online, and there 
are more detailed ones that lawyers can draft that specifiy in great detail 
what one will allow or one doesn't want done (e.g., no rescucitation if 
breathing or heart stops, no respirators, no machine-assisted vegetative 
states, etc.). The details can run many pages (as challenges and legal snags 
have arisen over time, to address them). This is usually accompanied by a 
"health care proxy", another form that designates who will make medical 
decisions for one if one is incapable or incapacitated. One should make sure 
that the health care proxy understands the living will and agrees with it, 
since they can easily override it when a situation arises.

That's as far as we go in most States (some states may even ban living 
wills, I'm not sure). Since the Oregon, et al. assisted suicide laws are 
still considered very controversial in most of the US, the analogy between 
choosing to die from the death penalty and euthenasia  wouldn't have much 
traction here.

> Justice is served when he is locked behind bars. If that person would like
> to undergo euthanasia, would they stop him? If he still has human rights 
> in
> prison, they'll want to honour his choice to want to die, I should think.

There have actually been some notable cases where prisoners have sued to be 
executed -- they don't always win their suit, and even when they do, the 
legal process is usally quite drawn out and lengthy.

> On occasion? That leaves room for non-condoning. And I'm not sure the
> Buddha's social reality has the same complexity as ours,

I'm not sure "complexity" would be the differentiating factor. Since we 
don't live in ancient India we probably should be cautious about adopting 
its norms for ourselves, just as the diet and dress code of Buddhists 
changed as it left India.


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