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Wednesday, Oct 23, 2019

Medical dilemma

Suppose a person has been so injured that in the normal course, without medical aid, he has to die. Is it humane to intervene then and prolong the patient's agony?

india Updated: Jan 07, 2004 15:28 IST
Veena Minocha
Veena Minocha

The prospect of being kept alive by a machine is a horrifying thought. Till a few years back, life-supporting machine-systems were not so prevalent. But with the advent of science it has become possible to keep a human being technically alive, even though he may have lost the use of his life as a normal person. 

Suppose a person has been so seriously injured in an accident that in the normal course, without medical intervention, he has to die. Is it humane to intervene in such a case and prolong the agony of the patient, just so that the loved ones may feel that he has lived a little 'longer', if only with life supporting machines, which when withdrawn would end his life?  What if the patient is comatose, or has been rendered mentally incapable because of a degenerative illness?  What does one do if a child is born deformed so severely, mentally or physically, that he just cannot cope with life?

As the dilemma of the caregivers becomes intolerably confused, there are some basic principles that are involved in these complicated questions, from the moral or spiritual point of view.  The Tibetans, who have been given the spiritual methods of the Art of Dying have always maintained that the moments before death should be in a state of peaceful consciousness, spent in the close company of the Master, imbibing His vibrations, and 'being one' with His mind.

So what happens just before death, at the moment of death, and until the final separation of body and consciousness are of immense importance to the spiritual practitioner who wishes to be born in the Realms of Purity, or as a highly evolved human in his next birth.

Now what happens in a hospital bed at the time of death is hardly conducive to this kind of peaceful, spiritually enervating time that death should be. A kind of techno-hysteria is observed when patients are critically ill. Dozens of medical staff jab them with all the needles they can, pump innumerable poisonous drugs into the patient's systems, impatiently watching and monitoring all the vital functions, thus communicating their own hysterical state to the patient through their sounds and feelings. 

This might kindle unnecessary frustration and anger in the patient, who may want to be left undisturbed, to die in peace. It is well-known that even in a coma, a patient can figure out what is happening around him. The soul quality of the patient's last days or hours are to be maintained in quiet dignity, to allow the soul to rest in his eternal Nature, as he slips into the Realm of Purity.

The karmic consequences of withdrawing the life support systems of a patient depend on the purity of the intent of the healer. If the basic motivation of the healer is to prevent further suffering, in the full knowledge that the person cannot live without this support, then the karmic consequences are neutral, and nothing negative, or damaging attaches to him.

The Buddhists teach that it is our duty to see that every soul who is dying in front of us does so with dignity, respect, and with peace that he is at last going to meet his Creator. Spiritual healers and even medical doctors, if so inclined, can consciously create this frame of mind at the moment of transition.

In this New Year, let us all vow to take charge of any person we know to be dying, so as to make his last moments so meaningful and filled with the Love of God, that the soul goes in peace, without a backward glance at his human life.

First Published: Jan 07, 2004 15:24 IST

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