Dandavats! All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
Mayapur GBC report 2006 – part 2
By Badrinarayan dasa
During a recent istagosthi in Los Angeles, Badrinarayana Prabhu presented some relevant news from around the ISKCON world as well as some crucial decisions of the GBC body.
You can listen or download the presentation from the following links:here and here
I heard in this talk by Badrinarayana Prabhu that all ISKCON leaders are going to have “living” wills. He suggested that someone who is being kept alive by artificial means should “have the plug pulled so that they can go back to Godhead”. I was just wondering if there is an official stand by the GBC on the subject of euthanasia?
There is no stated policy on euthanasia from the GBC body but naturally devotees accept Krishna’s will and understand that whatever the laws of nature dictate as far as how one leaves one’s body is best accepted, rather than artificially interferred with.
Dear Editors, Thanks for the comment. However it is the definition of “artificial interference” that I am interested in. Srila Prabhupada took medicine, so do many devotees. He had operations so do many devotees. There are religious sects who ONLY believe in PRAYER and not in any sort of “artificial interference”. There are also examples of people in persistant vegetative states who will never recover nomalcy but who never the less won’t die if feed by others. There are examples of people in comas who sometimes wake up after years. Therefore again I suggest that there needs to be some further investigation and determination about these things. What exactly will the standard living will signed by all ISKCON leaders contain? And will all of them agree to sign it as it is written? There needs to be more thought put into these resolutions.
Editors Note: There is to date no resolution on the above, precisely as you say because it is a complex issue. Still, as devotees we know what the general principle is and while finding the balance in regards to how much ‘artificial’ intervention we opt for to keep alive maybe debateable, there is little dispute as far as artificial intervention to speed up death.
Thanks again for your Editor’s note. You mention that there is “little dispute as far as artificial intervention to speed up death” and at the same time you say “it is a complex issue”. (I would suggest that these concepts vary widely from country to country in legal terms and vary from devotee to devotee in philosophical terms) Please then let me know where the leaders of ISKCON “draw the line”?
I would put it to you that with 1st generation devotees aging and it becoming more and more common for devotees to leave their bodies that hospice care of devotees is going to start taking up more and more time and money for ISKCON. Some who have many disciples or family may be afforded care by their disciples and/or family members, however those members of ISKCON that do not have either will be “out of luck”. Does ISKCON actually have a plan for such persons? If not then how can we ask individuals to sign away their lives?
Naturally I agree that philosophically most devotees would not want to continue living in this world if there were no chance for devotional service or advancement in Krsna Consciousness. But who makes this determination? The Doctors? The person’s disciples or guru as the case may be? Their non-devotee family members? Some GBC committee?
Recently I heard of one example of a devotee lady who had to have a pregnancy terminated due to birth defects diagnosed by the Doctors and also because of the risk to her own life from carrying the baby to term. In cases like that what sort of stand do devotees take? Since none of us are medical professionals we must rely on such persons for their opinions and diagnoses.
Normally “living wills” contain a clause that states that the person does NOT authorize extraordinary means for their resuscitation or the extention of their lives, under a given set of cicumstances. This can also be clarified to include a dollar figure or even a percentage of the person’s net worth which should be used and NO more.
It seems like that main interest of the GBC in these issues so far has been that the property controlled by ISKCON leaders remain under the control of ISKCON and not be contested as was done even by Srila Prabhupada’s former family.
I would suggest that a much more comprehensive study of ISKCON’s responsibilites vis a vis it’s full time members in regards to beginning of life, end of life and extended hopice care issues needs to be done.
Thank you for your thoughtful comments Gaura Keshava prabhu. It is not a complex issue as far as being proactive in articficially speeding up the process of death but it is more complex as far as how much intervention we agree on in relation to pain relief and prolonging our life by artificial means. As for where ISKCON draws the line I would say there should be no artificial intervention to speed up the process of death (which is generally the main area of debate related to euthanasia) and that we should be conservative with a small c as far as excessive intervention to prolong life.
I agree with you that ISKCON has much work to do on the hospice care issue but some focus is now being given to that but it is important to remember that ISKCON is not requesting anyone to “sign away their lives”. The main thrust of the discussion at Mayapur last year was related to devotees in leadership positions who hold ISKCON assets in their own name, to ensure that they have a living will that would mean those assets are retained for ISKCON’s benefit. This is particularly related to countries where ISKCON has no legal status and there is often no option but to put those assets in a private name.
In relation to the broader issue you raise I am not so sure that legislation by the GBC would be so effective, not least because there are so many variables in this area. As devotees we have the resource of Srila Prabhupada’s books and example to guide us in knowing how best to leave this material world whatever circumstances we are faced with. Due to medical complications, such as the one you raise above, it may mean we have to adjust from the ideal but if our motivation and intention is sincere then surely we will be protected by guru and Krsna.