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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the Buddhist perspective on euthanasia in the light of scriptural teachings and contemporary opinions. The chapter is divided into four parts. The first considers what does—and does not—constitute euthanasia, and includes a discussion of views expressed by contemporary Tibetan teachers. The second part discusses two moral values often invoked in support of euthanasia, autonomy and compassion. The third part considers how euthanasia is regarded in early textual sources. The fourth part offers a brief survey of contemporary attitudes to euthanasia in Japan and Thailand. It concludes that euthanasia is contrary to Buddhist teachings in that it involves intentional killing contrary to the First Precept. Buddhists rarely call for the legalization of euthanasia: their concerns centre instead on ‘dysthanasia’, or the unnecessary prolongation of the dying process. In response to this concern it is suggested that Buddhism imposes no obligation to preserve life at all costs.

Keywords: autonomy, compassion, disproportionate treatment, dysthanasia, Japan, precepts, suicide, Thailand, Tibet, Vinaya

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