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About Euthanesia, Cloning, Stem cells

Letter sent by the "Buddhism Congregation Dharmaling", the 14. julij 2005, to the Office for Religious Communitties of the Government of Slovenia, after a meeting where Lama Shenphen Rinpoche was invited by the Government.

Some ethical issues

The Buddhist Congregation Dharmaling cannot agree with any form of euthanasia.
"Active euthanasia" can be assimilated with suicide.
As alternative, we could encourage palliative treatment, hospice to accompany the end of life in better environment, and an active treatment of the pain.
"Passive euthanasia" can be assimilated with murder.
As statistic show, any given right to end prematurely the life opens the door to misuse and abuse. To allow a doctor to end the life of a patient without his clear consent, and even without his knowledge, is nothing else than a murder!
The difference shall be clearly made between "not prolonging the life by all means" and euthanasia, ie. in several situations, too much efforts are made to sustain a life which is in many way obviously lost.
After "brain death" would be established and confirmed, we do not see obstacle to unplug a body in mere vegetative state, which then is no more than a "sustained cadaver".
Our Congregation would accept the following as criteria of death ("brain death"):
Absence of cerebral and brain stem function
Pupillary responses are absent, and eye movements cannot be elicited by the vestibulo-ocular reflex or by irrigating the ears with cold water.
The corneal and gag reflex are absent, and there is no facial or tongue movement.
The limbs are flaccid, and there is no movement, although primitive withdrawal movements in response to local painful stimuli, mediated at a spinal cord level, can occur.
Apnea Test: An apnea test should be performed to ascertain that no respirations occur at a PCO2 level of at least 60 mmHg. The patient oxygenation should be maintained with giving 100% oxygen by a cannula inserted into endotracheal tube as the PCO2 rises. The inability to develop respiration is consistent with medullary failure.
Persistence of brain dysfunction
Six hours with a confirmatory isoelectric EEG or electrocerebral silence, performed according to the technical standards of the American Electroencephalographic Society
Confirmatory tests
No cerebral circulation present on angiographic examination (is the principal legal sign in many European countries).
Some causes must be ruled out
Body temperature must be above 32 C to rule out hypothermia
No chance of drug intoxication or neuromuscular blockade
Patient is not in shock
Usage of embryo and cloning
Research on embryo
Buddhists believe that for a being to develop, there is the need of three components: the mother cell, the father cell, and a consciousness. We can then conclude that whenever a fertilize egg develops (from the zygote's first cell division), a consciousness is present.
Any voluntarily cessation of life from the first moment of development is then to be considered as a murder.
1. we cannot accept any research and experiment performed on fertilized egg, or embryo, else than with the perspective to be re-implanted in a womb for the purpose of allowing pregnancy for couples having difficulties to procreate normally. 
* Justification such as creating a fetus for the sake of saving a sick member of the family is absurd, as it is killing consciously one life to sustain an other one.
* In the cases where objectively stem cells would be beneficial, we do not oppose the gathering of them from umbilical cord only.
* When obstacles appear in the usual process of procreation (low count of spermatozoids, physio-pathological obstacles, …), we see no objection to use technically assisted procreation, as long as it doesn’t induce any death.
2. we cannot accept abortion, else than in situation where the life is obviously and medically impossible and would endanger for sure the life of the mother.
Though the way to create life using the cloning method is different (than the natural way), we do believe a being created technically possess a consciousness ("soul") from the first cells division.
The reason invoked for the development of such techniques and the possibilities of abuses are so important - along with fact that many beings will be destroyed along the way - that we cannot agree with any form of cloning.
* *
Note: those are just few remarks, after the meeting organized by the Office for Religious communities. In case a debate would go further, we would gladly extend the above points and actively take part in any discussions.


Words of Wisdom

"When I talk of being detached, what I mean is to be simpler, more easy-going. Detachment doesn't mean totally renouncing everything. It means that you loosen your grip and be more relaxed."
- Lama Yeshe

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