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Sikhism and Mercy Killing : A Perspective

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by Neutral Singh, Apr 5, 2005.

  1. Neutral Singh

    Neutral Singh
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    MERCY KILLING IS ANTI-GURMAT By Gurmukh Singh

    Terri Schiavo, aged 41 years old, collapsed in February 1990 in her home. As a result of her fall, her heart stopped beating temporarily and oxygen was cut off to her brain. Her parents - the Schindlers - had been locked in a legal battle with her legal guardian and husband Michael Schiavo since May 1998. They opposed his wish to remove the feeding tube and let her die. The Courts rejected three appeals made by Mrs. Schiavo's parents to put back the feeding tube into Terri Schiavo to keep her alive. The third appeal was rejected on Wednesday 30th March
    2005. This sparked a national debate in America and across the world about Euthanasia and whether it is ethical to refuse medication and allow a patient to starve to death because of their vegetative state. Terri Schiavo sadly died on March 31st 2005.

    Being a Sikh what is the Gurmat perspective on this case? Is it permissible and ethically correct to aid someone's death by redrawing treatment and depriving them of food, and in effect starving someone to death? Or, being Sikhs and a caring human beings, should we not look to help alleviate a fellow human being's pain and suffering of long term or incurable illness?

    What is the Sikh view on this important subject of Euthanasia or mercy-killing?

    Is it right to end a life on account of the pain and agony faced by the patient? Is the physician under a duty to end life, when the terminally ill patient or the patient's family asks for relief in death? The Gurus regarded suffering as a result of a person's Karma. Humans must have the moral courage to bear his suffering without sinking into our pain and grief. A person should pray for the grace of God to enable them or their family member to put up with pain in a spirit of acceptance and surrender.

    There is no place for mercy-killing in Sikhi. The Gurus tackled the problem of sickness and suffering by providing medical relief and alleviation of pain. Guru Arjan Sahib Ji built a health centre to help cure and care for people suffering from leprosy at Tarn-Taran. Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji established a hospital at Kiratpur Sahib. It is reported that he supplied a rare herb to Mughal Emperor Jahangeer for the serious illness of his son. After all, suffering is a part of the human condition and has a place in Vaheguru's scheme. Suffering also prompts a person to turn his or her thoughts to Vaheguru; "

    "Suffering is a medicine; happiness is a disease"
    (Ang 469, SGGS)

    The Gurus rejected suicide, as it is interference in Vaheguru's plan. Many Sikhs faced torture and ultimate death at the hands of tyrant rulers and fanatic leaders, though they could have found relief through suicide. Birth and death are the choice and right of Vaheguru and are under His command. It is no business of people to oppose the Divine Will.

    Renounce the intellectual cleverness of your mind, O humble servants of the Lord; understanding the Hukam of His Command, peace is found. Whatever God does, accept that with pleasure; in comfort and in suffering, meditate on Him. (Ang 209, SGGS)

    Vaheguru's Hukam includes the Laws of Karma (action reaction theory of our actions), Laws of Nature, the Laws of Physics etc.

    When Guru Arjan Sahib Ji, the Fifth Nanak was being tortured and made to sit on a hot plate while hot sand was poured over him, he did not cry or ask the Mughal soldiers to kill him quickly because of the pain. Rather, Guru Sahib elevated his mind and soul above the physical pain. Guru Sahib humbly and sweetly said, Through the Guru's grace) all your actions seem so sweet to me. (Your servant)

    Nanak begs for the most valuable treasure of the Naam, the Name of the Lord." (Ang 394, SGGS)

    About twenty years ago, the late Pope John Paul II condemned mercy killing and suicide as opposed to God's will and declared it a crime of the utmost gravity. It is the duty of the State and society to alleviate the suffering of citizens by medicine, surgery or psychological treatment. Even the expert physician has no right as such to end life. If he cannot cure or heal, he should not destroy life. As humans we can use duwaa (medicine) and duaa (prayer). Until our duaa is accepted, our duwaa (medicine) will not work.

    Our sympathy and prayers are with Mrs Schiavo's family at their loss. May Vaheguru bless them with the gift of Accepting Vaheguru's Will and may Vaheguru offer them comfort and support.

    source: panthic.org
     
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  3. devinesanative

    devinesanative
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    Is it right , when Waheguru Himself has withdrawn the life driving force from the person and we human beings are trying to make that person live by providing him with artificial ventilation system or any system. ?

    Lets Study with time line:

    B-----------------------------DZ--D

    t0--------------------------------tn

    Is it right when a person is already in the DZ ie death zone . But between the DZ and D we humans try to save that person ?
     
  4. Lulamae

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    I am not familiar with the idea of the "death zone." Is this a common concept? Also, what is t0 and tn? Could you explain a little more about the time line, etc.?
     
  5. faujasingh

    faujasingh
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    We cannot compare the state of the divine souls like Guru Maharaj ji with the normal people. I dont think its a wise idea to keep alive a brain dead person in the way that the person's heart beats. The cost factor is another concern.
     
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  6. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    faujasinghji

    Keeping a brain dead person alive is problematic as you imply. However mercy killing is the act of ending a life through the use of an aggressive intervention such as lethal combinations of chemicals. The alternative of removing life support or not providing life support (as in DNR or Do Not Resuscitate) is not Mercy Killing. The decision to actively take a life versus the decision not to continue life support, by most ethical and medical accounts, is viewed as two different things, because in the first instance of removing life support, nature takes over. In the second instance of actively ending a life, another human takes control.
     
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  7. Sinister

    Sinister
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    brain death itself is a complicated process.

    Brain damage can be divided... Where the Limbic/autonomic nervous system (which controls the autonomic responses) and Enteric nervous system could be intact/functioning and sustaining Endocrine, heart, digestive, sensory activity...(needed to perserve bodily functions), while irreversible damage to higher prefrontal lobes of the brain have literally killed the 'personality' and complex motor capabilities that we attach to a 'living' person...leading to a persistant or permenant vegetative state (PVS).

    There is another problem because many times PVS is misdiagnosed (we have seen some Coma patients recover over time...dependant on scale of damage). Sometimes there exists higher level brain functions while still in vegetative state. Doctors realized this while trying to get vegetables to picture themselves performing a task while scanning there brains with a Functional MRI (fMRI), EEG and SPECT scanners. And in many cases these people have brain activity that is very similiar if not identical to the norm. (meaning they can indeed here words, and cognitevely relate them to past experiences)...they are just in a minimally conscious state.

    hard call. but once you are certain that resources are finite/slimming down and recovery unlikely. you usually let the person go. (and I feel it is the responsibility of the physician and family to make an agreeable valued judgement in determining a patients quality of life and hope for recovery...NOT the business of a religious institution OR even a State)

    how you do it however is another debate. (let them starve? or lethal injection of morphine?)


    Aside:

    Originally posted above:

    "Suffering is a medicine; happiness is a disease"
    (Ang 469, SGGS)

    is this taken out of context?
     
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  8. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    This is the complete verse and it is taken out of context.
    ਦੁਖੁ ਦਾਰੂ ਸੁਖੁ ਰੋਗੁ ਭਇਆ ਜਾ ਸੁਖੁ ਤਾਮਿ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥
    dhukh dhaaroo sukh rog bhaeiaa jaa sukh thaam n hoee ||
    Suffering is the medicine, and pleasure the disease, because where there is pleasure, there is no desire for God.

    As with many places in Gurbani when Guruji points out that something can have ill effects, the point is that it may take our awareness away from the Satguru. The shabad, and the shabads before and after, are lessons about many different kinds of spiritual errors we are capable of. In the shabad in question, our lesson is not to seek suffering because it is better than pleasure. That is a misreading of the shabad. The lesson is that is it easy to be mislead by pleasure, but much less so by suffering. In a similar vein -- seeking suffering through asceticism also misleads us. Elsewhere in the raag this lesson is also given.

    P/S and added later. I am not surprised that the verse is taken out of context. It is also woefully misinterpreted in the starter article. Neither the verse nor the shabad have anything connection at all to the issue of mercy killing or the removal of life support. Nor are we as Sikhs advised to go forth and seek the most painful way to live or die. But why am I not surprised? The source is panthic.org which uses bani to prove their arguments -- an incorrect and a backwards strategy.
     
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  9. harbansj24

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    Yes the Shabad is taken out of context.
    Nowhere are we taught to subject ourselves to willful suffering or pander to pleasures.
    You are right subjecting to aggressive intervention for euthanasia is anti Sikh but the patient can be allowed to go naturally.
     
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  10. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
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    That is why Gurmatt doesnt advocate..fasting, austerities, standing on on leg, climbing up "Gurdwara steps" on ones knees ( as we commonly see being done by Hindu devotees), roll on the ground, cut ones body, walk on fire etc etc etc in ORDER to "PLEASE: HIM. Gurbani explicitly declares that HE is NOT PLEASED by such acts (or by lack of them either !!) SO there isnt much more "merit" through crawling up a mountain...say to viist Hemkunt than in flying in on a helicpoter...BOTH are mundane acts..of equal "value" (if any).
     
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