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

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

QUESTIONS ABOUT DEATH 381ALLOWING DEATH TO HAPPENIn 1986 the American Medical Association ruled it was ethical fordoctors to remove life-support, including food and water, from terminallyill patients about to die and from those who could linger in acoma. Four years later a Gallup poll showed that 84 percent of Americanswould prefer to have treatment withheld if they were on lifesupportand had no hope of recovering. 3The decision to limit or withhold life-sustaining treatments isoften called "passive euthanasia." Death is allowed to happen naturally,by refraining from medical intervention or heroic measures thatcan only lengthen a person's life by days or hours, and where theircondition is not amenable to treatment. It would include terminatingaggressive treatments or therapies aimed at curing the dying person,refusing or discontinuing life-support machinery and intravenous feeding,and dispensing with cardiac resuscitation. This passive form ofeuthanasia also takes place when the family and doctor choose not totreat a secondary condition that will result in death. For example, aperson dying in the final stages of bone cancer may develop pneumonia,which if not treated may lead to a death that is more peaceful,and less painful and prolonged.What about people who are terminally ill and decide to takethemselves off life-support? By ending their lives, are they committinga negative action? Kalu Rinpoche has answered this questionvery precisely:The person who decides that they have had enough suffering and wishto be allowed to die is in a situation that we cannot call virtuous or nonvirtuous.We certainly cannot blame someone for making that decision. Itis not a karmically negative act. It is simply the wish to avoid suffering,which is the fundamental wish of all living beings. On the other hand, itis not a particularly virtuous act, either,,,, Rather than being a wish toend one's life, it's a wish to end suffering. Therefore it is a karmicallyneutral act.What if we are caring for a dying person who asks us to removelife-support? Kalu Rinpoche said:We may not be able to save the patient's life. We may not be able torelieve the person's suffering. But we are trying our best, motivated in thepurest way possible. Whatever we do, even if it is not ultimately successful,can never be thought of as karmically damaging or karmically negative..When a healer is instructed by a patient to remove life-support systems,that puts the healer in a difficult position, because the instincts of thehealer may be telling them, "If this person stayed on the life-support systemthey would remain alive. If I take them off, they will die," The karmicconsequences depend upon the healer's intent because the healer will be

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