Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact lincoln@newbuddhist.com if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take up to 48 hours. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

Compassion for the dying

EarthninjaEarthninja WandererWest Australia Veteran

Ok so let's use the analogy of a dying squirrel again, you believe it's dying and suffering. What do you do? Do you hit it with the stick or do you let nature take it's own course?

I would bash it with the stick, purely because I'm under strong suspicion it is going to die soon anyway. It's last moments are suffering so why not end it's suffering?

From a karmic aspect I would feel worse for walking away and leaving it to die slowly, than if I ended its life. However this goes against the precepts.

But the same goes if you take your dog to the vet to get put down, you and the vet have gone against the precepts and are likely to have some karma affect.

Why can't a Dr assist a dying person? If I was dying I'd thank the doctor for helping me go quickly! But he's not allowed! He is a healer only, even though it's natural to die.

I've heard the argument that we shouldn't kill anything, for any reason. Mainly due to the heavy heavy result on our karma. That suffering is a part of life and all creatures die. We can't put human emotions to want to end the suffering on the animal, to let it be.

I would have a problem with the above, how do you guys feel?

Comments

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    I would have a problem with the above, how do you guys feel?

    Like a dying squirrel. Now where are my nuts . . .

    EarthninjaMeisterBobKundo
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Earthninja, in a nutshell, the only person's actions we can be responsible for or have a good effect on - and with - are our own.

    Everything else is beyond our remit, and the whys and wherefores are not for us to be able to definitively decide.

    Suffice to say that there are Action Groups campaigning for the "Right to Die" for humans, and some countries already permit this...

    But the machinations of arriving at any decision concerning Life and/or Death, must be the individual's where they have a say in the matter.
    No-one else's.

    EarthninjaKundo
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    I wince every time my husband swats a mosquito, imagine if I'll ever come near putting a squirrel out of its misery... I put myself too much on the animal or insect's shoes.
    @Earthninja, as a boy who has hunted and fished, you are more braced to face these situations than a city slicker like me who fed on concrete and mackadam.
    Yes, I agree it would be more compassionate not to prolong a sentient being's misery, but I would not whack in the head a dying human being. Why should the squirrel be any different?

  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    @dharmamom‌ I wouldn't see any difference.

  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran

    In respect of your comment about doctors (and nurses) facilitating death, this is happening all the time, after all that's what the hospice movement was born out of, the desire to assist the dying to have dignity in death.

    That often means the administration of high doses of lethal drugs to reduce pain and other forms of suffering, to the point of there being no consciousness you can communicate with, and that in itself can expedite death.

    It has always been my firmly held opinion that the medical profession have 2 duties that they have to balance, the first is the preservation of life without exacerbating suffering (not always the case - despite the good intentions behind it), and the second is the relief of suffering and assisting the dying to dye peacefully and with dignity. Sadly, I have only seen the first being upheld (by the majority of predominantly junior and inexperienced doctors) with real fervour, and this has it's own consequences. Death still holds a stigma as it is seen as a failure of the medical profession (this is a generalisation - not a statement of fact in all instances)

    Earthninjalobster
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    I prefer not to put forth hypothesis as to "what if" situations.
    I think it was @Chaz on another thread that described how he put out a suffering deer.
    The fact that I don't think I could bring myself to do it, does not mean I judge people who feel morally compelled to do it.
    I have always lived too removed from Nature, anyway, to be even remotely close to facing such a situation.

    Earthninja
  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran

    When I come across an injured animal I take it to the local vets. They are best suited to assess and deal with it's injuries, and relocate to a sanctuary for injured animals if continued life is suspected, or if necessary they can put it out of it's misery. In the UK, we have emergency services set up for the purposes of dealing with injured wild animals, some are local and specific for the particular wildlife problems, some have a national: http://www.rspca.org.uk/allaboutanimals/wildlife/injuredanimals.

    Common misconceived ideas about karma often mistranslate into notions or beliefs of what is right and wrong. Karma just means ones action or doing. If you hit the squirrel on the head then you are doing 'hitting the squirrel on the head', thats your karma. Of course that may cause you a moral dilemma which stresses you out, but if you hit the squirrel on the head and thought nothing of it - no moral dilemma, no stress.

    BuddhadragonJeffreylobster
  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran Veteran
    edited June 2014

    These questions always imply there is a set of rules that will remove any doubt over what is the sanctioned response to any situation in life. Most of our lives are spent on predictable routine, after all. I get up, fix a meal, go to the store, go to work, come home, maybe spend an hour meditating and then go to bed. Same old, same old.

    My actions don't require a lot of conscious effort. I might have to decide what to eat for lunch or what brand of toothpaste to buy. I don't have to make a decision about how to respond to people, normally. I'm polite to the people I meet. It's not rocket science.

    But once in a while we stumble into a situation that requires us to step outside of our routine and make a moral choice. Now we have a problem. So normally "don't kill" isn't even something we have to deal with, unless you are faced with an infestation of bedbugs. You see, or perhaps you are the one who hit a squirrel and it's not dead, but lying there on the road twitching and obviously suffering. What do you do as a good Buddhist?

    There's a simple answer. You do what you can. If all you can do is relieve the suffering, then that's what you do, if you know how. Probably a whole lot of people have no idea how to quickly kill a squirrel with your bare hands. I do, because I used to hunt as a teenager and not every shot is a clean kill. But that's something I can do, and I can't expect you to make that same choice.

    But perhaps you have the resources to take the animal to a vet, where they will certainly do this using their own methods. Or maybe all you can do is carefully carry the animal off the road and try to make it comfortable for the few minutes it will live.

    You do what you can. Then you get on with your life. No easy answers and no guaranteed happy outcome. You'll have to deal with each situation on its own.

    federicazenfflobsterKundo
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I know I can't kill anything. Goodness knows, I've encountered some situations where 'putting something out of its misery' might have been the order of the day, or the result, had I killed it. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it, ever.

    In fact, recently, I got into a right old ding-dong of an argument with some posters on the topic of a Metapicture where a girl had been sent a lot of (individually-wrapped) oysters, and on shucking them, found a pearl in each one.

    These pearls are small spheres of plastic, with a roughened (irritating) surface. They are inserted into the oysters artificially and the oysters then cover them with nacre (the 'pearl' exterior), and the pearls are then produced.

    The oysters are killed, in order to simply extract these pearls. A warning sign on the packages instructs emphatically that 'these oysters are not for consumption. Do NOT eat!'

    well, some people pointed out that this was a needless and unnecessary waste, and one person called these 'protesters' fools or idiots or something... so I responded, as one does, somewhat extensively.
    WHAM.
    Did I stir up a storm!!

    I left the discussion, because frankly, it was beginning to border on the ludicrous. "Don't kill plants they have feelings too!" is what it came down to.... :rolleyes: .

    Cinorjer
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    Ideally, I would get in touch with the vet, or better yet an animal rehabber. Often times when animals are, say, hit by cars, they look dead or almost dead, but can be saved by proper intervention. There are times it is clear nothing can be done, and in that case the swiftest way to release them is best. I'm not sure I'd say bashing them with a stick would be the best way just because you don't know how much further pain you are causing. Also, people have to be careful about wanting to take in and fix sick animals themselves. Our instincts tend to kill baby animals. Things like giving them milk, will kill them, and much more miserably than if you had left them to die a natural death. So, it really just depends on the situation. I work with an animal rehabber, and am horrified at both ends: people who want to help but don't contact those with training and end up killing the animal in a slow and painful way, and people who assume they know an animal is dying, so they kill it when it could have been saved. It really takes a trained person to know, but sometimes, we do know nothing can be done. For example, a rehabber can do nothing to help a deer with broken legs. They will simply euthanize it. Forcing it to endure a very painful trip in a car to a vet would just be prolonging it's suffering versus killing it with a bullet. If you cannot do so (or like many of us don't have a gun, lol) call the police, they will do it.

    Yesterday, a local person found a baby mouse, eyes still closed, alone on her front step. Probably dropped there by a car or bird. If it survives having been caught and dropped by a cat (animals almost always die when cat bitten) or a bird, it's unlikely to survive the fact that the woman is feeding it soy milk. Despite being asked to contact the vet or rehab, and our offer to drive the mouse 2 hours to the rehab place, she wants to be the hero and save the baby herself and it'll probably result in his death, most likely from nutritional starvation or impacted bowels, as babies that young cannot evacuate their bowels on their own. Well intentioned, but, she also has the information to do better by the baby and she refuses, so, that's on her.

    Jeffrey
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran Veteran

    A doctor can just not make heroic measures and give you morphine and no food.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I think @Jeffrey that doctors can only do that if a person's end of life plan includes provisions such as that. That is where it gets hard, when someone is so sick they want to die, the family can easily argue that the person is not of a sound enough mind to make that decision. So it has to be written in, and sometimes even then, doctors are stuck behind state laws. It is legal for doctors to help a patient die, on certain grounds, but only in a handful of states.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    Ideally

    Well said @karasti‌
    The last time this dilemma occurred for me was with a garden fox. It came to the garden and looked straight at me. It did not continue foraging or ignore me as well foxes do. It required euthanasia, the end of its suffering. Somehow I knew this was being requested. On a personal and social level the whack on the head was not possible nor was phoning or contacting animal experts.

    There was nothing I could do in terms of its physical release. I did puja/prayers for the fox. I later found the foxes body behind the Buddha statue in the garden.

    karastiEarthninjaCinorjer
  • CittaCitta Veteran Veteran

    One of the kindest gentlest men I know is Ato Rinpoche.

    He came to the UK very early on in the Tibetan diaspora, and although ( or perhaps because ) he is a highly regarded Tulku he worked for many years at Cambridges Addenbrookes Hospital, as a care assistant.

    He is kindness personified, softly spoken and infinitely patient.

    One day when leaving his drive he hit a hedgehog. The animal was screaming in pain.

    " What did you do Rinpoche ? " asked one of his students. " I swiftly reversed over it, and then said prayers ", he replied.

    CinorjersndymornEarthninjalobster
  • NeleNele Veteran Veteran

    I would have no problem ending the suffering of an animal or person, by killing or assisting with the killing. To me that is compassion. I guess I haven't gotten to the Buddhist readings that say "don't kill for any reason" yet. Maybe I'll skip that part. :-)

    sndymornEarthninja
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran Veteran

    The other side of the coin is to let the animal die and experience all of its negative karma so that in the next life that is all paid. For animals they don't have much consciousness, but humans can learn to let go of life. Harsh, I know, but like I said it is the 'other side of the coin.'

  • CittaCitta Veteran Veteran

    If karma is the result of volitional intended activity @Jeffrey, how does that work out for animals ?

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran Veteran
    edited June 2014

    Yes it doesn't work out for animals unless they have an awareness of coping with their death. It could be intuitive for the animal so I am not sure. And in general I am not sure. Lama Shenpen was asked about suicide in Buddhism Connect which is a teacher student e-mailing with select mails posted for all to see. I couldn't find the right Buddhism connect through browsing. She responded to someone who was talking about suicide.

  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    @Citta said:
    If karma is the result of volitional intended activity Jeffrey, how does that work out for animals ?

    they are probably already enlightened then

  • footiamfootiam Veteran Veteran

    @Earthninja said:
    Ok so let's use the analogy of a dying squirrel again, you believe it's dying and suffering. What do you do? Do you hit it with the stick or do you let nature take it's own course?

    I would bash it with the stick, purely because I'm under strong suspicion it is going to die soon anyway. It's last moments are suffering so why not end it's suffering?

    From a karmic aspect I would feel worse for walking away and leaving it to die slowly, than if I ended its life. However this goes against the precepts.

    But the same goes if you take your dog to the vet to get put down, you and the vet have gone against the precepts and are likely to have some karma affect.

    Why can't a Dr assist a dying person? If I was dying I'd thank the doctor for helping me go quickly! But he's not allowed! He is a healer only, even though it's natural to die.

    I've heard the argument that we shouldn't kill anything, for any reason. Mainly due to the heavy heavy result on our karma. That suffering is a part of life and all creatures die. We can't put human emotions to want to end the suffering on the animal, to let it be.

    I would have a problem with the above, how do you guys feel?

    If there is bad karma in putting something to death, then don't. Have compassion for the living too!

  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    @Liam‌ what if there's bad karma for letting a being suffer? I do have compassion for the living, but there is a time to die right? We don't have to suffer though!

  • BarraBarra soto zennie wandering in a cloud in beautiful, bucolic Victoria BC, on the wacky left coast of Canada Veteran

    My friend Shirley is dying right now. She is in a nursing home. Yesterday she was on oxygen (for the first time) and was not able to speak. But today she was better, speaking and in good humour. She said they are giving her good drugs.
    I find the staff in the facility to be very compassionate. Last week Shirley was frantic with anxiety, but a couple of days ago her nurse Joti had a conversation with her and asked her if she didn't just want to go. They joked about going to heaven or hell.
    I've only known her for about four years. She was a tough broad, always fighting to get her own way. In a lot of ways she was her own worst enemy. I'm glad that she's going to be able to let go soon.

    EarthninjaBuddhadragon
  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    But today she was better, speaking and in good humour. She said they are giving her good drugs.

    I can almost sense some people packing their bags for Canada right now. What a compassionate service . . . ;) .

    Joking about death is a mark of her toughness. Go Shirley. In Peace.

    Buddhadragon
  • TheswingisyellowTheswingisyellow Trying to be open to existence Samsara Veteran

    I hit some ducks while driving. Two were killed outright. One that was alive was flailing about and clearly suffering. I picked up the duck and broke his neck, it seemed to be the right thing to do for this dying suffering animal. I did not mean to hit them and felt very bad about having done so, I didn't feel ending the ducks suffering was wrong or unskillful.

    lobsterEarthninja
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    @Earthninja In some of Buddhism you will find people/teachers who say that it is better to not interrupt the death process (mostly referring to people but one could apply it to animals as well) simply because it is a process. And because, as Jeffery said earlier, sometimes the suffering that comes in illness and death is something that needs to be experienced. I have also read that people have a choice in when they go, when they are in the process of dying, they can choose to let go. It was why so many hold on for loved ones who are unaccepting of the impending death, and why often people let go and die as soon as everyone leaves them alone. If they haven't let go it, it's possible (according to some) that they are still working through things that they need to work through so as not to carry them with them later.

    When my cousin was very ill, (he was sick a while but was 42 when he was starting the death process) he was in Florida for a routine checkup with a specialist when he fell horribly ill. The family went down to see him and despite being told it would be mere hours, he lived for days, because his mother would not accept he was dying. She kept tolding him to hold on for the family, not to go, and so on. She had to return to MN to tend to her business for a few days, and within 30 minutes of her leaving, he allowed himself to die. It happens often.

    I think people should be able to choose, if that is what they want. But I am not sure for me, if I would choose euthanasia or not. I think often times thinking about the suffering we might go through (and the suffering of our loved ones watching us die) is worse than the actual suffering itself. For example, a friend of mine, her mother had alzheimers. It was very hard for her kids (adults) and family. She often didn't remember them, didn't remember things from their life together, and it was very hard for her loved ones for her not to know who they were. But for her, was it so terrible? We think it would be terrible to forget our loved ones, but if we don't know better, is it that horrible? She thought she had won the lottery and was on a fabulous vacation with people attending to her every need.

    Earthninja
  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    @karasti I've heard the same from some teachers. :) you reminded me. Great post. It's always a hard one. Thank you

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    I hit some ducks while driving. Two were killed outright.

    Honour their memory with an orange

    duck l'orange

    Yab Yum!

    Family visit to two graves yesterday. A suggested third would have been self indulgent. Tea and cake at local eatery instead . . .

    Theswingisyellow
Sign In or Register to comment.