The-Tibetan-Book-of-Living-and-Dying

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The-Tibetan-Book-of-Living-and-Dying

APPENDIX TWOQuestions About DeathTHE SKILL OF MEDICAL SCIENCE and advances in medicaltechnology have been responsible for saving countless lives andalleviating untold suffering. Yet at the same time they pose many ethicaland moral dilemmas for the dying, their families, and their doctors,which are complex and sometimes anguishingly difficult toresolve. Should we, for example, allow our dying relative or friend tobe connected to a life-support system, or removed from one? Toavoid prolonging the agony of a dying person, should doctors havethe power to terminate a life? And should those who feel they arecondemned to a long and painful death be encouraged, or evenassisted, in killing themselves? People often ask me questions such asthese about death and dying, and I would like to review some ofthem here.STAYING ALIVEEven forty years ago most people died at home, but now themajority of us die in hospitals and nursing homes. The prospect ofbeing kept alive by a machine is a real and frightening one. Peopleare asking themselves more and more what they can do to ensure ahumane and dignified death, without their lives being unnecessarilyprolonged. This has become a very complicated issue. How do wedecide whether to begin life-support for a person, for instance, after aserious accident? And what if the person is comatose, cannot speak,or has been rendered mentally incapable because of a degenerative illness?What if it is an infant who is severely deformed and braindamaged?There are no easy answers to questions such as these, but thereare some basic principles that might guide us. According to the teachingof Buddha, all life is sacred; all beings have buddha nature, andlife offers them, as we have seen, the possibility of enlightenment. Toavoid destroying life is taken as one of the first principles of humanconduct. Yet Buddha also advised very strongly against dogmatism,and I believe we cannot take a fixed view, or an "official" position, or378

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