Girl Contemplative Sun

These Two Religions May Support Brittany Maynard’s Decision on Assisted Suicide

Girl Contemplative Sun

While many Christians believe it’s wrong to end one’s own life, other religions, such as Jainism and Hinduism, differ.

Brittany Maynard was a 29-year-old woman who chose to end her life with assisted suicide after learning she had a terminal form of brain cancer. This has raised the question: Is it appropriate for a terminally ill patient to decide to end their own life?

Many religious traditions hold that to aid someone in ending their own life is to act against God.  It is seen as trying to control that which God should control.  However, there are some religions which view euthanasia as an essential right, maintaining that everyone has the right to determine whether their life should continue.  Two religions which view euthanasia as an acceptable end-of-life alternative are Hinduism and Jainism.

In the Jain religion, undertaking Santhara (or Sallenkhana) is highly regarded and praised.  It is a process by which a Jain ceases to eat as part of preparing oneself for death.  It is not considered suicide because it is not the result of passionate feelings and emotions, but rather is undertaken with the intention of purifying the body and clearing the mind of material considerations.  The intention is announced prior to beginning the fast and the ascetic’s community is heavily involved.  The goal is to free the ascetic to concentrate fully on spiritual considerations as death approaches.  Santhara is governed by strict directives, including the ruling that death must be imminent and unavoidable.

In the Hindu religion, there is Prayopavesa, similar to Santhara in that it is a path of fasting to self-willed death.  Like Santhara, Prayopavesa is not considered suicide and involves the ascetic’s community, as well as a prior announcement to allow for regulation.  An ascetic wishing to undertake Prayopavesa must meet certain requirements such as not being able to perform one’s own bodily purification.  The goal, like that of Santhara in Jainism, is to allow the ascetic to meditate properly on spiritual matters and the innermost parts of the Self.  Even though Prayopavesa in an available avenue for Hindus wishing to end their lives, opinions differ greatly on the practice


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