Friday, September 9, 2005

Buddhist end of life perspective

The Lancet end of life perspectives series continues this week with a segment on Buddhism.  Interesting, but brief, & nothing stunning (there must be a reason, one begins to wonder, why all of the world's religions reject euthanasia...).  What I found fascinating was this excerpt from a Buddhist scripture.  There's no indication when it was written but I assume it was hundreds if not well over a thousand years old.  It is comforting, and humbling, to see the moral complexity and emotional burden of dying described so long ago:

    "If one who is sick ceases to take food with the intention of dying when medicine and nursing care are at hand, he commits a minor offence (dukkata). But in the case of a patient who has suffered a long time with a serious illness the nursing monks may become weary and turn away in despair thinking 'when will we ever cure him of this illness?' Here it is legitimate to decline food and medical care if the patient sees that the monks are worn out and his life cannot be prolonged even with intensive care."

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