Buddhist Medical Ethics


Buddhist Medical Ethics

Buddhist Medical ethics

Buddhist Medical ethics

The Question:

What are taboos in hospitals for Buddhists. ie: blood transfusion, medication, surgery, lab work, x-rays, etc. ?

My answer:

Hello and thank you for your question.

Japanese Buddhist, in general do not have many restrictions regarding medical procedures. Buddhists, as a rule, seek compassion as a virtue and helping suffering people is the perfect example of compassion. For this reason, Buddhist have always been closely associated with the medical profession.

Japan is no exception. For this reason, the only “taboo” in Japan is organ donation. All other points you brought are the same as most civilized countries.

Organ transplant is not actually forbidden; what is still a controversy is when is the person considered dead.
Some consider the person dead, when his soul has left the body completely several hours after the death of the brain and body. Others consider the person really dead when only the brain is dead. For organ harversting, it is much better to act while the body is still alive but the brain dead. The chance of success of the transplantation is thus increased.

By fear of doctor harvesting their organs before being really dead, few Japanese actually sign an organ donor card. This makes it ten times harder to actually find a compatible donor in Japan, compared to the U.S.A. People have to wait, on average, up to 10 years.

Also, it was illegal to take organs from children under 15 years old. as they were considered not legally able to take decisions, up until 2010. In 2010, a new law was voted to ease the process of organ transplantation and save more lives.

On a Buddhist point of view, “Becker suggests that Buddhism values self-determination and praises those who decide when and how they will die when they do so in order to have a dignified conscious death. Becker also concludes that the key point is not whether there is still warmth or reflexes (as suggested by some readings of theVisuddhimagga) but whether the patient’s skandhas have permanently left, i.e. the patient is permanently unconscious. In other words, Buddhism would endorse a brain death definition of death. On the understanding of death in Japanese religion see also Picken (1977).” -Taken from an excelent website on the subject

Everything else if fine. Euthanasia, suicide and abortion are subjects for which Buddhism is very forgiving too.

In compassion,