make rules about issues such as these. We can only act with whatever

wisdom we have, according to each situation. And, as always, everything

depends on our motivation and on the compassion behind it.

Is there any point in keeping people alive artificially when they

otherwise would die? The Dalai Lama has indicated one essential factor—the

state of mind of the dying person: "From the Buddhist point

of view if a dying person has any chance of having positive, virtuous

thoughts, it is important—and there is a purpose—for them to live

for even just a few minutes longer." He highlights the stress on the

family in such a situation: "If there is no such chance for positive

thoughts, and in addition a lot of money is being spent by relatives

simply in order to keep someone alive, then there seems to be no

point. But each case must be dealt with individually; it is very difficult

to generalize." 1

Life-support measures or resuscitation can be a cause of disturbance,

annoyance, and distraction at the critical moment of death.

We have seen from both the Buddhist teachings and the evidence of

the near-death experience that even when people are in a coma they

can have total awareness of everything that is going on around them.

What happens just before death, at death, and until the final separation

of body and consciousness are moments of immense importance

for anyone, and especially for a spiritual practitioner seeking to practice

or rest in the nature of the mind.

In general there is a danger that life-sustaining treatment that

merely prolongs the dying process may only kindle unnecessary

grasping, anger, and frustration in a dying person, especially if this

was not his or her original wish. Relatives who are faced with difficult

decisions, and overwhelmed with the responsibility of letting

their loved one die, should reflect that if there is no real hope of

recovery, the quality of the final days or hours of their loved one's

life may be more important than simply keeping the person alive.

Besides, as we never really know whether the consciousness is still in

the body, we may even be condemning them to imprisonment in a

useless body.

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said:

To use life-support mechanisms when a person has no chance of recovery

is pointless, It is far better to let them die naturally in a peaceful atmosphere

and perform positive actions on their behalf. When the life-support

machinery is in place, but there is no hope, it is not a crime to stop it,

since there is no way in which the person can survive, and you are only

holding onto their life artificially,

Attempts at resuscitation can also sometimes be needless and an

unnecessary disturbance to a dying person. One doctor writes:

The hospital erupts into a spasm of frenzied activity. Dozens of people

rush to the bedside in a last-ditch effort to resuscitate the patient. The

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