Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby Paññāsikhara » Wed Oct 27, 2010 5:14 am

Regards the "starving" to death situation, there may be the case whereby the person chooses not to eat, and although people bring them food, they choose not to partake. This is quite different from with holding food. In effect, it is a kind of suicide rather than euthanasia.

We may also wish to consider the role of death by starvation in non-Buddhist traditions co-temporary with the Buddha. In particular, Jaina. In fact, for Jains, the highest way to die is for an arhat to commit suicide by starvation.

(Recently heard a very interesting story along this line, from a well known Prof of Buddhist Studies, whose grand mother choose this way to die - she survived 56 days on naught but water. It was a very moving journey at the end for her and her whole family.)
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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby Sanghamitta » Wed Oct 27, 2010 7:45 am

alan wrote:Sorry Mike and Ben. I saw this as a spin-off from another thread. It seemed to me the famous "Nanavira killed himself so he therefore cannot be trusted to have said anything worthwhile" meme was in play.

You mean as opposed to the "its wrong for anyone but an arahant to kill themselves " meme.....

Just read it out loud to yourselves...

" Its wrong for anyone but an arahant to kill themselves ".....
Last edited by Sanghamitta on Wed Oct 27, 2010 8:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby Sanghamitta » Wed Oct 27, 2010 7:48 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:Regards the "starving" to death situation, there may be the case whereby the person chooses not to eat, and although people bring them food, they choose not to partake. This is quite different from with holding food. In effect, it is a kind of suicide rather than euthanasia.

We may also wish to consider the role of death by starvation in non-Buddhist traditions co-temporary with the Buddha. In particular, Jaina. In fact, for Jains, the highest way to die is for an arhat to commit suicide by starvation.

(Recently heard a very interesting story along this line, from a well known Prof of Buddhist Studies, whose grand mother choose this way to die - she survived 56 days on naught but water. It was a very moving journey at the end for her and her whole family.)

Had she lived in the UK her depression and underlying condition would have been treated and she might have died in a less dramatic and punishing way.
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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby cooran » Wed Oct 27, 2010 8:20 am

BlackBird wrote:Hi Chris, apart from being a collection of articles on the subject of suicide within Theravada Buddhism, is there any comment you would like to make for or against that could provide a 'starting point' for some discussion?

Hello Jack, alan, all,

I put this thread in the General Theravada Forum as I would like some discussion on the whole topic (not just controversies) from the perspective of traditional Theravada.
Putting up resources concerning Nanavira was not intended as a red flag - simply that I wished to include all the articles I have on the matter, and I have been reading those concerning him due to the other thread.

I’m not pushing any particular wheelbarrow, but I do regard Buddhavacana as the Gold Standard.

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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby BlackBird » Wed Oct 27, 2010 9:35 am

Hi Chris, thanks for the clarification.

Sanghamitta wrote:" Its wrong for anyone but an arahant to kill themselves ".....


I've read it aloud and I still happen to think it makes decent sense in certain circumstances.
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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby Sanghamitta » Wed Oct 27, 2010 9:44 am

Ok if that sounds reasonable to you..who am I to argue.
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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Oct 27, 2010 9:45 am

Greetings,

If someone is in favour of voluntary euthanasia, does it make any difference who pulls the pin?

:?:

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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby Ben » Wed Oct 27, 2010 9:57 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

If someone is in favour of voluntary euthanasia, does it make any difference who pulls the pin?

:?:

Metta,
Retro. :)


Yes,I think so. I think the kamma as a result of the person doing the euthanasing is 'weightier' than the person who assents to it or desires someone to take their life because the person who performs the act marries their intention with the act knowing that the act will end someone's life. I think this is different to the kamma of someone who instructs, asks or assents to euthanasia where the killing is performed by someone else.
But my understanding could be faulty...
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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby cooran » Wed Oct 27, 2010 10:13 am

Hello Ben, Retro, all,

It is complicated. Often we think our motives are kind and compassionate, but they are based on fear or aversion to an idea, a sight, a sound, or a smell .... more about removing our own discomfort than to bring ease to another. Having worked in aged care, intensive care and surgical wards as a counsellor, I know there are alternatives to euthanasia ... the increasing of medication to relieve pain and bring comfort, when a side-effect but not the intention, may be the eventual death of the patient.

I have always found a reliable guide in:
Good, Evil and Beyond - Kamma in the Buddha's Teaching by P. A. Payutto
http://www.buddhanet.net/cmdsg/kamma.htm

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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby Viscid » Wed Oct 27, 2010 3:48 pm

cooran wrote:the increasing of medication to relieve pain and bring comfort, when a side-effect but not the intention, may be the eventual death of the patient.


So you know that a side-effect of the medication you're doping these seniors up with may bring sudden death, but because you're leaving it up to chance you've absolved yourself of guilt?

(Though I actually agree this may be the best way to do it without having to deal with the problem of trying to decide who should and who should not be allowed to kill themselves.)
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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby Jason » Wed Oct 27, 2010 5:04 pm

cooran wrote:Often we think our motives are kind and compassionate, but they are based on fear or aversion to an idea, a sight, a sound, or a smell .... more about removing our own discomfort than to bring ease to another.


That's certainly true in some cases, but I doubt it's true for all of them. This is one area where I actually disagree with Theravadin orthodoxy; I accept that, in certain situations, it's possible a person can kill out of compassion or other 'skillful' mental states, especially in the case of a sick and dying loved one who is asking for help in ending their pain.

Having worked in aged care, intensive care and surgical wards as a counsellor, I know there are alternatives to euthanasia ... the increasing of medication to relieve pain and bring comfort, when a side-effect but not the intention, may be the eventual death of the patient.


But more often than not, the person who prescribes and/or administers the medication knows very well what the 'side-effect' of giving a lethal dose of pain medication is, and to be honest, I see nothing wrong with that if and when the patient has made it perfectly clear that they can no longer tolerate the pain they're in. In fact, I think this is a perfect example of someone helping to end a life full of agonizing pain out of compassion rather than fear or aversion.
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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby cooran » Wed Oct 27, 2010 6:17 pm

Viscid wrote:
cooran wrote:the increasing of medication to relieve pain and bring comfort, when a side-effect but not the intention, may be the eventual death of the patient.


So you know that a side-effect of the medication you're doping these seniors up with may bring sudden death, but because you're leaving it up to chance you've absolved yourself of guilt?

(Though I actually agree this may be the best way to do it without having to deal with the problem of trying to decide who should and who should not be allowed to kill themselves.)

Hello Viscid,

First of all, large numbers of people with life-threatening painful diseases are not ''seniors''. They could be you and I.
Second, no-one is ''doping'' them - medical officers are using the smallest effective doses of appropriate medication to bring them ease and comfort without interfering with their clarity of mind.
However, at some point, the dilemma may arise of an increased possibility of the medication used for the sole purpose of bringing ease and comfort having the unintended consequence of death of the patient.
This can and does occur when there is not the slightest intention of causing an early exit from life under the disguise of simply wishing to relieve pain.

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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby Viscid » Wed Oct 27, 2010 9:30 pm

cooran wrote:This can and does occur when there is not the slightest intention of causing an early exit from life under the disguise of simply wishing to relieve pain.

with metta
Chris


Please excuse my aggressive, accusational tone in my previous reply. I do it only for stylistic purposes.

You may be right, and I do defer to your experience for authority in this matter. But I still find it difficult to have full faith that all doctors and relatives of patients are completely devoid of intent, however compassionately or not, to relieve someone's pain permanently through riskily-high doses of medication. I doubt the same risk of overmedicating would be taken with children as with the aged. Doesn't the difference in resolve for the preservation of the lives of children versus that of the terminally ill or terminally aged imply that we have a greater intent to let them die?
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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby alan » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:57 am

I think it makes perfect sense to end your own life if you are in constant pain with no relief in sight. And I respect those who assist them in relieving suffering.
Maybe that is against the Suttas but I'll just have to admit it, and ask anyone to show me why it is wrong.

Kamma? Well that is just a bit of salt thrown into the Ganges, in these cases...
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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby Individual » Thu Oct 28, 2010 3:01 am

alan wrote:I think it makes perfect sense to end your own life if you are in constant pain with no relief in sight. And I respect those who assist them in relieving suffering.
Maybe that is against the Suttas but I'll just have to admit it, and ask anyone to show me why it is wrong.

Kamma? Well that is just a bit of salt thrown into the Ganges, in these cases...

The reason this view is mistaken is because it does not recognize the cause of suffering, the difference between pain (physical) and suffering (mental), and the reality of rebirth (not that I am trying to promote reincarnation here!).

But I don't deny that you are genuine in your compassion. :)
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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby alan » Thu Oct 28, 2010 3:17 am

And what if the cause of suffering is an illness that cannot be cured?
Try telling someone who is suffering from a horrible, painful illness that it is all "mental"
Good luck with that.
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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Oct 28, 2010 4:18 am

alan wrote:And what if the cause of suffering is an illness that cannot be cured?
Try telling someone who is suffering from a horrible, painful illness that it is all "mental"
Good luck with that.

The Buddha, Saripitta, and others, seemed to be good at that, but I must admit that I'm not so skilled:

MN 143 Anathapindikovada Sutta: Instructions to Anathapindika
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
[Ven. Sariputta:] "Then, householder, you should train yourself in this way: 'I won't cling to the eye; my consciousness will not be dependent on the eye.' That's how you should train yourself. 'I won't cling to the ear... nose... tongue... body; my consciousness will not be dependent on the body.' ... 'I won't cling to the intellect; my consciousness will not be dependent on the intellect.' That's how you should train yourself.

...

When this was said, Anathapindika the householder wept and shed tears. Ven. Ananda said to him, "Are you sinking, householder? Are you foundering?"

"No, venerable sir. I'm not sinking, nor am I foundering. It's just that for a long time I have attended to the Teacher, and to the monks who inspire my heart, but never before have I heard a talk on the Dhamma like this."

"This sort of talk on the Dhamma, householder, is not given to lay people clad in white. This sort of talk on the Dhamma is given to those gone forth."

"In that case, Ven. Sariputta, please let this sort of talk on the Dhamma be given to lay people clad in white. There are clansmen with little dust in their eyes who are wasting away through not hearing [this] Dhamma. There will be those who will understand it."
...
[Dies not long after they leave...]

:anjali:
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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby Viscid » Thu Oct 28, 2010 4:50 am

Ven. Sariputta wrote:"This sort of talk on the Dhamma, householder, is not given to lay people clad in white. This sort of talk on the Dhamma is given to those gone forth."

"In that case, Ven. Sariputta, please let this sort of talk on the Dhamma be given to lay people clad in white. There are clansmen with little dust in their eyes who are wasting away through not hearing [this] Dhamma. There will be those who will understand it."


Damn, now that's what I call a sutta!
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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Oct 30, 2010 6:34 am

I think there is a karmic distinction between suicide and killing another - but dont ask me to describe it though! I think the Buddha merely wanted people to complete their training to the best of their abilities when they are in contact with the dhamma, having attained a human birth. Who knows what kind of birth the next life will be? You could be born as an animal or a deva with so much pleasure and distraction that dhamma goes out the window. However if a person was in so much pain that no practice was possible and it was terminal, then maybe it is compassionate to relieve someone of their suffering. It must be said that we cannot help but perform bad karma. Each time we take a shower we kill millions of little creatures. Each time we take some strong medicine we kill. Each time we take a step to walk, we kill. Each time we use detergent, soap, cleaning powder we kill. So it makes sense to kill to relieve suffering in my opinion. (yes, it is killing, -we must face the facts).

There is something called 'attachment to precepts' (sila-upadana). This is difficulty in letting go of precepts so that a higher goal may be accomplished (not, not letting go of it willy-nilly that is).

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Re: Suicide and Euthanasia according to Theravada

Postby cooran » Sat Oct 30, 2010 6:50 am

Hello ryb, all,

It must be said that we cannot help but perform bad karma

Kamma is created by Intentional Action, not by non-intentional action.
Each time we take a shower we kill millions of little creatures. Each time we take some strong medicine we kill. Each time we take a step to walk, we kill. Each time we use detergent, soap, cleaning powder we kill.
Could you indicate where in the Suttas that the Buddha taught bacteria and germs are sentient beings - and where non-intentional or unaware killing is kammic?

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