Is euthanasia okay?

Oct 18, 2021

 

QUESTION

 

Dear Robina,

 

I hope that you are well. It has been a long time since our last exchange of e-mails. I am well, and continuing to nurse my mother.

 

I am writing to ask for your spiritual advice on a very difficult subject.

 

Doctors here have recently changed their stance on euthanasia, voting neutral whereas before they were against. There is a very strong movement trying to legalise euthanasia.

 

This feels very wrong to me. Even though the argument is that it ends people’s suffering, it still is in my mind a direct act of killing. So I am very much opposed to euthanasia, but more and more of my nurse and doctor colleagues are supporting it.

 

Is there ever a case for euthanasia? I have learnt as a nurse and also through nursing my mother that there is a lot of suffering involved in old age, that is the reality of being a human being.

 

I would really appreciate your thoughts dear Robina.

 

Kindest wishes,

T

 

ANSWER

 

Dear T,

 

Happy to hear from you again.

 

It’s a difficult one, this euthanasia. And it’s gaining momentum, as you indicate.

 

The Buddhist view is quite different. You see, because the next life that the person will take is determined by the karma that ripens at about the time they stop breathing, the main thing is help them stay calm and steady so that a virtuous karmic seed will be triggered, which will ensure they’ll get a good human rebirth.

 

To kill them is like playing Russian roulette with their consciousness. 

 

You could argue that if you had really powerful wisdom and could see that they will definitely get another good human rebirth then it’s okay to kill them. But who has that wisdom?

 

Sure, killing them now stops the immediate suffering — and that is all that the modern view is concerned with.

 

So without a view of future lives, it’s a different analysis. 

 

People who agree with euthanasia mean well: they want to stop the suffering of the sick person. That’s a good motivation. But, as Lama Zopa Rinpoche says, meaning well is not enough: we need wisdom – and in these cases that’s the wisdom to see what life they will take after they die. That’s the Buddhist concern. 

 

All the advice in Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s book How to Face Death Without Fear is based on this: helping the person die well, die peacefully and thus with a virtuous mind, which will help them get a good human rebirth.

 

Love,

Robina

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