Proposed euthanasia legalisation in nsw australia the end of terminal suffering and pain. Is it supported by the buddhist suttas?

How do you feel about the end of your days to say goodbyes to all with the choice of being euthanised to end it all ?..

This has been brought up many times before. No it’s not supported unless the person is blameless, which is taken to mean an Arahant, with caveats and different interpretations discussed what exactly blameless means. In short, for a lay person, no, it’s not supported by the suttas.

Hi Lea,

Here are some past discussions about this sensitive and complicated topic. Hope they’re useful.

6 Likes

I feel very good about it :slight_smile: It is nice/wise/good to put the choice into the hands of the individual involved.

Moralizing is all very good, but when one is being slowly and excruciatingly tortured to death by the body, things look very different… I’d suggest that unless one has actually had some experience here, no matter what you ‘think’ at this time - it will change under those kinds of conditions - and you never absolutely know which camp you will end up in. I had the privilege of helping my best friend die of an excruciating brain (and many other bits) cancer. There was no euthanasia here, she was a denier of death, a lover of life and fighter till the very end, ultimately her life had to be ripped from her. However, the last days were spent in a drug induced coma… I was with her 24/7 for many months. If she had not had such a sophisticated application of pain relief through the course of her illness, I’m certain she would have been begging for the suffering to be ended (in the midst of screaming). Imagine if one didn’t have this degree of medical intervention to ease the suffering… do you think you could lie there peacefully still practicing? What about if one is not a Buddhist…

Underpinning everything in the Buddhas teachings is conditionality. This includes precepts and kamma - everything depends on the multifaceted details of the situation at the time… so blanket judgements are very dangerous… Dare I say, even the idea that, what appears to be bad kamma is always ‘bad’, needs to be flexible. :slight_smile: It really needs to be up to the person themselves to choose… how can anyone else take on this choice… what kind of kamma are they making if they take on the responsibility for this choice (what is right or wrong? is this even a thing??), or prevent them from choosing what is right for them? We are each the heirs of our own kamma.

Bottom line is kindness. This never goes astray, and no judgement of any kind is involved. Less views more kindness.

As has been pointed out, there have been many discussion about what the suttas say on the matter.

15 Likes

The Suttas do not suggest that it is appropriate or good for a government to legislate the choices that a person makes at the end of their life. So loosening government control and returning decisions to the hands of the people is in line with the Suttas.

It is the Abrahamic (Judeo-Christian-Islamic) religions who always want to make a law to enforce the morality found in their scriptures. If we were to actually legislate Buddhist morality, rather than being pulled about by the winds of Abrahamic agendas, we’d be pushing to make animal industries illegal, starting with factory farms. :pig: :chicken: :sheep: :cow: :fish:

8 Likes

What does that mean?

That there are suttas that specifically state that suicide is wrong? That euthansia is wrong?

Are consequences stated? A worse rebirth?

The question was whether it’s supported by the suttas, not whether it is explicitly denied/forbidden. I’m simply saying it’s not supported, i.e. the suttas don’t say it’s ok to do, unless you’re blameless. I never said that the suttas say you can’t do it.

If the question was “do the suttas support forbidding euthanization”, I would probably say “not that I know of”.

The closest thing I know of is the monks killing eachother because they didn’t balance out asubha practice and the Buddha says if they did Anapanasati (which I take to mean with asubha not instead of asubha) then their aversion and restlessness would be calmed and not extreme enough to want to die, but this obviously isn’t the same thing as someone wanting to die because of a severe painful illnes.

Yes, what does that mean?

That there is a sutta that explicitly states that a person who commits euthanasia will face bad karma as a result?

No, there’s 2 separate monks in 2 separate suttas that kill themselves because of severe illness and the Buddha says it’s fine because at the time of the killing they acted blamelessly (which the common interpretation takes to mean they were Arahants).

edit: correction he doesn’t say it’s fine, he just says they did it blamelessly

Also, I added more info to my previous response.

1 Like

This is a really interesting point. In the context of those suttas, it is looked at from the point of view of having completely the journey, being free from re-birth. If one is Liberated and one commits suicide, one will still not be re-born, even though one has done this act.

If one is not Liberated, then Kamma will determine the re-birth in any case.
So to split hairs, I’d say that it is the EXACT manner and mind states of the circumstances surrounding death that contribute to kamma and thus the nature of re-birth. So how much actual difference (positive or negative, light, dark or mixed) it makes, will depend completely on the situation.

In the end it is just the body… and that (corpse) is left behind. :slight_smile: :relieved:

2 Likes

Yes. I wonder if those who kill themselves because of extreme existential dread (and not because of physical pain) would still do so if they knew for certain that rebirth is true, or even on the slight off chance that rebirth could be true.

1 Like

That sounds interesting.

I’ve always taken it that there is no “blame” in Buddhism, that karma just operates like an impersonal law of physics.

Is “blameless” an under-translation for arahant or someone with neutral intent that would produce neutral karma?

Here’s a discussion with Ven. Sujato on blamelessness Self-immolation is not an authentic Buddhist practice - #10 by sujato

There’s also other interpretations by other monks, I remember reading Ven Dhammanando’s take several years ago, but it’s been a while.

My understanding is that there was no 3 poisons involved in the act, so not even “neutral” kamma is involved. If my memory serves me right, neutral kamma is still conditioned/caused by ignorance.

2 Likes

Yes and no. Yes, kamma is impersonal, it merely creates a force that has an effect. We can describe that pattern, but doing so doesn’t affect it.

But when speaking of moral judgement, the Buddha did consider that we should listen to the voices of others, or more specifically, the wise. The judgements of others don’t determine the moral quality of the act and don’t influence the outcome, but they do help us make good choices.

It’s not easy to always decide what is right and what is wrong, and we need all the help we can get. Sometimes we can simply observe the effects of our action, and that’s enough. Sometimes we can see the moral quality motivating the action, and that’s enough. Sometimes we can feel the sense of either remorse of joy from an action, and that’s enough. But sometimes none of these are enough, and that’s when we need a trustworthy third party to give us some perspective.

2 Likes

So “blameless” would be similar to saying “the experts in X would not say this was a counterproductive decision”?

Thanks for the answer.

I appreciate your time. I imagine boredom is not a problem you have.

It seems you are seeking a clear-cut answer, and I feel you will not find it. As with many things within the tradition, things are conditional, ever-changing, and co-dependant; therefore, it is hard to give people yay or nay answers as they relate to particular questions, especially difficult ones like the one you presented here.

I mean I could get behind this part. We should be abolishing those. And as a vegetarian myself, I do draw the limit there. Because as you say, I don’t want the state governing people’s personal choices and vegetarianism is just not a universal value across religions and cultures. Heck, I personally think a religious animal sacrifice in say an Afro-Brazilian Candomblé context, where the animal is hand raised and well treated and that then feeds the whole community sounds far better than factory farming. I may struggle to accept it as a Buddhist, but I am not going to dictate and judge them when there is far worse treatment of animals, with far more environmentally devastating results, out in the world to tackle.