Re: Death and the Elderly

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Caring for the elderly

Living at home: Many of the elderly are independent and prefer to live at home. The social services can allocate someone to help them with housework. Traditionally, Christians prefer for the elderly to keep their independence.

Living with family: Many families prefer to have elderly members living with them as the elderly person can be treated as an important member of the family. In Buddhism the elderly person's children have a responsibility to look after them, this should be seen as a privilege and gives them good karma. "Support for ones parents...this is the highest protection"

Community options: Some elderly people move into sheltered housing which is adapted to their needs, this allows them some independence. Residential homes provide security and care for people who cannot look after themselves. Elderly people who are unwell move into a care home or hospital (short term) where they have access to the medical care they need. If the elderly person has a terminal illness or is close to death they may spend their final weeks in a hospice. If living at home isn't possible it is a Christian's duty to consider other options carefully in order to provide the best care for the elderly person. Churches provide facilities for the elderly and pastoral support such as Holy Communion at home/a residential home.

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Death: the end of life, normally determined when the brain ceases to function.

Death (Christian): when the soul leaves the body

Christians believe that when a person dies, God decides whether they spend eternity in heaven or hell, depending on how they have acted int their life. Catholics  believe in purgatory and some Christians wonder if Judgement Day of a future event when all are judged or an individual judgement when a person dies.

Heaven: a state of being with God after death.

Hell: a state of being without God after death.

Purgatory: a time of spiritual cleansing and preparation for heaven.

Buddhists believe in rebirth which is dependent on karma. They refer to samsara as the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Buddhists don't believe in a soul (anatta) so at the time of rebirth the impermanent life force that is fashioned by karma is reborn at a different level of life.

Rebirth: continuing life in another form

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Attitudes to the elderly

Ageism: prejudice and discrimination against the elderly.

Problems faced by the elderly:

  • Many elderly people are poor as they rely on state pension or benefits.
  • Many elderly people don't feel ready to retire and prefer to work to keep their mind and body active.
  • The elderly are more likely to become ill and suffer from age-related health problems.
  • The elderly may become less mobile and more dependent on others to get around, they may worry about becoming a burden on their family or society.
  • They may feel worthless to society because they can't make a contribution through paid work.
  • They may face loneliness because their partner has died, 2 million elderly people (mostly women) live alone.
  • 1 in 5 people are over 65 in the UK.

Christians should support the elderly as they should be respected and are vulnerable." Love thy neighbour", "Honour your father and your mother"-5th commandment, "Love one another as I have loved you". Buddhists should respect the elderly for their wisdom and experience.

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Taking life


"You shall not murder"

Only God can make the decision of who dies and when. God intends a person to die. If someone commits suicide they are sinning against God and risking an afterlife without God.

Buddhism: Committing suicide may give you bad karma.

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Euthanasia-Key Words

Euthanasia- inducing a painless death, by agreement and with compassion, to ease suffering. From the Greek meaning 'good death'

Voluntary- the person asks a doctor to end their life

Non-voluntary- the person is too ill to ask but it is believed to be in their best interests.

Involuntary- as happened in Nazi Germany, when sick people are killed without consultation.

Passive- Not doing something to stop the person dying i.e.turning off life support

Active- deliberately giving a patient a legal injection which will end their life.

Sanctity of life- all life is sacred

Quality of life- some lives are more sacred than others

Doctrine of double effect- if you treat someone for something and a side effect is that they die then that's okay.

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Euthanasia- Religious veiws

Euthanasia is illegal in the UK but legal in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.


Buddhists believe euthanasia is wrong and creates bad karma because its breaks the First Precept  to not harm any living thing. Suffering is a fact of life as written in two of the Four Noble Truths ( (Dukkha/Tanha/Nirodha) and we must accept this. Also, if someone is suffering, they are working off bad karma, so if you try and commit euthanasia they may be cutting short their karma.

A Buddhist may also argue that if the intention is merciful, it could be allowed.


Christians usually disagree with euthanasia because of their belief in the sanctity of life and they believe that only God has the right to take life.

Although, some cannot believe that a loving God wouls want his people to suffer. They may argue that that god-given free will and intelligence give a person the right to choose to end their life when its quality is greatly reduced. 

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Keeping People Alive

Life-support machine:a machine that keeps people alive when they would otherwise have died.

All religions support turning off life-support machines for people who are brain dead.

Christians realise this may be interpreted as taking God's role in life and death, they would prefer nor to keep people alive with little prospect of a decent quality if life, purely to prolong it.

Religious principles to consider:

  • compassion (Karuna)
  • quality of life
  • sanctity of life
  • the First Precept, not causing harm to any living thing
  • using God-given talents and skills to save life.
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Help for the dying and bereved

Mourning: a period of time which signs of grief are shown

Hospice: a special place to which people go to die with dignity.

Christians believe there is an afterlife in heaven with God which is a comfort to those who are dying and to the bereaved. Those who follow their faith throughout their life and ask for forgiveness will reach this. "He who believes in me will live, even though he dies"

Buddhists gain comfort from the promise of rebirth and the hope of being reborn into a better level of life if they have earned good karma by doing good deeds.

Religious people are keen to support a dying person and their family and religious leaders from within the community are available to help if asked.

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Hospices: In 1967, Dame Cindy Saunders set up the first hospice, St Christopher's in Sydenham.

Hospices proved physical, spiritual, emotional and psychological care as a complete package, and many are run by a particular religion. Patients receive palliative care (sufficient pain relief to maintain comfort and consciousness). Pastoral support can be arranged and the patients needs are met so that they, their friends and their family can prepare for their imminent death. They can die with dignity in a familiar place in the presence of loved ones. 

There are hospices that specialise in looking after children, where their specific needs and the needs of their family are better catered for. These emphasise on not only preparing for death but also on encouraging the child to enjoy their last months by doing lots of things that children normally do.

Christianity:" Love your neighbour"

Buddhism: Metta and Karuna

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Religious attitudes to drug abuse

Drug: a substance which, when taken, affects the body or mind.

Prescription drugs: drugs legally obtained only with a doctor's consent.

Drug abuse: using drugs in a way that harms the user.

Illegal drugs: drugs which are illegal to possess, sell or use, classifies according to their potential harm and addictiveness.

Social drugs: legal drugs which are still addictive;caffeine,nicotine, alcohol..

Christians are strongly against taking illegal drugs and the misuse of prescription drugs because of the damage they do to the body and mind that God created ("God's Temple"), the destruction of which is seen as a direct attack on God's authority.

Buddhists are strictly against the use of illegal drugs because its breaks the Fifth Precept that prohibits the taking of drugs and alcohol that cloud the mind.

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Drugs and the law

Legal drugs: drugs that can be purchased legally. Some have age restrictions.

Solvents: some aerosols, glue and gas lighter refills abused by sniffing, which can cause hallucination and can be fatal.

Caffeine: a mild legal stimulant, found in coffee, chocolate, etc.

  • Social drugs are legal but restricted to over 18's because they can still cause harm to the user if abused.
  • Prescribed drugs are legal but only for whom they are prescribed to.
  • Over-the-counter drugs are legal but the quantity of some painkillers can be restricted.
  • Household solvents can be abused by sniffing but are not legally controlled, retailers are advised to restrict selling them to over 18's only.
  • Illegal drugs are illegally manufactured and illegally sold.


It's the most widely used mood-altering drug, large quantities can cause irregular sleep patterns, digestion problems and panic attacks

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Classification of illegal drugs

Drug classification: three legal categories by which illegal drugs are classified by British Law according to their level of harm and addictiveness.

Class A: maximum 7 years for possession, life for supply

Heroin, Ecstasy, LSD

Class B: maximum: maximum5 year for possession, 14 years for supply

Cannabis, Amphetamines

Class C: possession is legal, maximum 14 years for supply (previously 5 years)

Anabolic steroids, Tranquilizers

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Reclassification of cannabis

Cannabis: a class B drug which is usually smoked, some people wish this to be legalised.

Cannabis was graded class B in 1971 but many argued legal drugs such as alcohol had much worse effects on society than cannabis so in 2004 the government changed ti to a class C drug.

However in 2009, the government changed cannabis back to a class B drug because skunk cannabis had been invented (stronger form) and had gone from a 30% share of the market to 81%, increasing the likelihood of users experiencing long-term effects.

Research shows the average age of a first-time user is 13, this raises fears about cannabis being a 'gateway drug', raising the possibility of cannabis users starting a habit of using life-acting class A drugs.

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Religious views on using alcohol and tobacco


Buddhism doesn't allow the use of alcohol because its breaks the First and Fifth Precepts and has the potential to harm the user and others, it also creates bad karma.


Christians don't forbid the use of alcohol, they use it in Holy Communion and it features in the story of the Wedding of Cana.  

However some Christians think that people under the influence of alcohol have the potential to harm others ("It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall"). Christians discourage smoking as it is harming the body that God created ("You yourselves are God's Temple"). Orthodox Christians believe that smoking is the "incense of Satan"

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Reasons for taking drugs

Tobacco: used in cigarettes and cigars, it contains nicotine an addictive social drug

Alcohol: an addictive social drug found in beer, wine and spirits.

Why drink alcohol/smoke tobacco?

  • peer pressure
  • they enjoy the taste/ need to smoke to relax
  • they enjoy being under the influence of alcohol/ they follow role models who smoke
  • they are addicted to alcohol/nicotine

Why do people take illegal drugs?

  • they are addicted to them
  • taking them helps them enjoy a night out
  • they have progressed from legal drugs like alcohol
  • peep pressure
  • they take them to cope with a crisis in their life
  • they mix with people who take and deal illegal drugs
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Reason for not using illegal drugs

  • the long term effects (physical and psychological health problems,debt) outweigh the short-term effects (the 'buzz')
  • they don't want to become addicted
  • it's an expensive habit
  • funding an addiction can lead to crime 
  • it's very hard to break an addiction
  • an addiction will probably dominate family life

Religious views

Buddhists forbid the use of illegal drugs because it breaks the Fifth Precept.

Christianity teaches aginst the use if illegal drugs because of the harm it does to the individual, their family and society.

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Helping addicts

Getting off illegal drugs without professional medical help is very difficult and places in rehabilitation clinics are limited. Also, rehabilitation has a low success rate as patients make good progress when they are supported but are at risk when they return to their previous environment where they must avoid the temptation to start using again.

Religious views:

Buddhists try to help addicts as this is part of 'right action' and show compassion (Karuna) and loving kindness (Metta).

Christians also support helping addicts and follow  the teaching: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick"

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Religious attitudes to crime and punishment

Crime: an offence that is punishable by law e.g. stealing.

All religions recognise the importance of law within society.

Buddhists believe that if a person breaks the law their karma will be affected and their actions will have consequences, their own karma will ensure that justice will be done in either this life or the next.

Christians also believe that a crimminal's actions will have consequences: "a man reaps what he sows". They believe crimminals should be punished and then forgiven and that it's important to work toward stopping causes of crime. Christians are encuraged to be law-abiding citizens.

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Causes of crime

Duty: a moral or legal obligation

Responsibility: a duty to care for or having control over something or someone

Conscience: the inner feeling you are doing right or wrong.

What causes crime?

  • Social reasons- breaking the law to fit in with a 'gang' and to show off or becuase of peer pressure. E.g. drug addiction or alcohol dependence.
  • Environmental reasons- when home beckground influences the crime. Povery, bad education and deprivation, bad childhood experiences have all been linked to crime.
  • Psychological reasons- some are due to human nature or mental ilness, reports show 905 of young people in prision suffer from mental health problems.
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Types of crime and aims of punishment

Crime against a person: an offence which directly harms someone e.g. murder

Crime against property: damaging items belonging to someone else e.g. vandalism

Crime against the state: an offence which harms the country or government e.g. treason

Religious offences: an offence against a religion e.g. blasphemy, sacrilege

Punishment: something done to a person because they have broken the law

Protection: keeping the public from being harmed or threatened by criminals e.g. prison

Retribution: revenge, to get you own back- 'an eye for an eye' 

Deterrence: to put people off committing crimes e.g. death penalty

Vindication: offenders must be punished  to show the law must be respected and is right

Reform: to change someone's behaviour for the better 

Reparation: help an offender to put something back into society e.g. community service

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Religious attitudes to the aims of punishment


Buddhists think it's important to protect society from the criminal but aren't in favour of retribution as it goes against the teaching of Metta (loving kindness) and Karuna (compassion). being excessively cruel when punishing a criminal will injure the offenders mind (making them bitter and resentful) and the punishers mind. 

Buddhists think the best way to deal with a criminal is to reform their behaviour because it's in keeping with the Five Precepts. Reparation is also important as criminal activity creates bad karma and reparation gives the criminal a chance to gain to gain good karma and helps society aswell.


Most Christians don't support the idea of retribution but do support the other aims of punishment.They support vindication and crime prevention and the most important aim of punishment is to reform criminals to make them law-abiding citizens. Christians believe offenders should repent their wrongdoing and receive both punishment and then forgiveness  so that they have a second chance.

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Imprisonment: when a person is put in jail for committing a crime

Prison reform: a movement that tries to ensure offenders are treated as humanely in prison

Why send criminals to prison?

  • to protect society
  • as a form of retribution (isolation)
  • to stop criminals reoffending as they are locked away
  • to act as a deterrent (vindication)
  • to give offenders time to reflect on their actions and decide to reform

Disadvantages of prison:

  • they can be 'schools for crime', prisoners can teach each other criminal methods
  • prison can breed resentment, bitterness and a want for revenge
  • most prisoners reoffend on release
  • prison records make it difficult to get a job and reform
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Religious attitudes to prison

Religions accept the need for prisons to deprive offenders of their freedom and as a form of protection. Religions support the idea of reforming offenders so they support constructive work and education within prisons to help offenders learn useful skills and overcome drug addictions.

Christians are actively involved in prison reform and Christian and Buddhist chaplains regularly visit inmates and their families.

Christians take their inspiration from the parable of the sheep and goats. "whatever you did for the least of my brethren you do for me"

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Capital punishment

Death penalty: when a prisoner is put to death for crimes committed.

Arguments against the death penalty:

  • mistakes-innocent people have been executed
  • deterrence- there no evidence that the death penalty is more of a deterrent than  life in prison
  • reformation- death doesn't give the criminal a chance to reform

Arguments for the death penalty:

  • retribution-murders deserve to die, 'a life for a life'
  • deterrence- death penalty deters criminals because they don't want to die
  • protection- killing the criminal protects society, those in life imprisonment can be let out after 15 years.
  • finance- it costs tax-payers thousand to keep murderers in prison.
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Religious views towards the death penalty


The death penalty isn't in keeping with the First Precept and the Buddhist teachings on non-violence and compassion (Karuna). The Dali Llama said "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind". However, Bhutan and Thailand maintain the death penalty as a punishment.  The Buddhaghosa in 400ce defined taking life as "to kill deliberately by word or action" and the seriousness of the offence measured by "how much the murderer wanted the killing to happen". So a Buddhist could see the death penalty as taking life as the victims deliberately want the murderer to be killed.


Some Christians support capital punishment by using the principle :"an eye for an eye" and "whoever sheds the blood of man, by man his blood be shed". They see the threat of the death penalty as a deterrent.

Other Christians worry that an innocent person may be executed and death removes the possibility of repentance. They believe that only God has the right to take a life away.

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Forms of punishment

Community service: unpaid work that an offender does to benefit the local community rather than prison. This punishment is focused on reparation. Some people see it as a 'soft option' and worry the offender can continue to break the law. Other think it's better than prison because it's cheaper, allows offenders to get paid work and keeps them away from other criminals. It's shown to have a higher success rate that prison.

Electronic tagging: an offender has to wear a device that tracks their movements to ensure they are restricted. Only 2% of offenders have committed crimes while tagged, mostly driving offences.

Fines: money paid as punishment for a crime or other offence.

Probation: an alternative prison where an offender meets regularly with a probation officer to ensure they don't re-offend. This gives the offender support to help them reform and allows the offender to keep their freedom.

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Life imprisonment,parole and prison reform

Parole: when a prisoner is released without completing their sentence because they have behaved well, they are still monitored so they don't re-offend. 

Life imprisonment: a prison sentence that (theoretically) keeps the offender in prison until they die. The average life sentence is 15 years so it may worry society that the won't always be protected as the prisoner still may be released.

Early release: when an offender leaves prison without completing their sentence or fulfilling the criteria for getting parole. This usually happens to low-risk criminals to prevent over-crowding of prisons or if the criminal has behaved well and repented. There is a risk that the criminal may re-offend and the victims may feel it is unfair and justice hasn't been done.However, it does give the prisoner a second chance.

Prison reform: Christians particularly support this. Some people support prison reform as over-crowded conditions are not good for prisoner reform and that prison should be reserved for the worst offenders. Other disagree because prison reform may turn prison into holiday camps and prison will no longer be a deterrent.

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The causes of world poverty

LEDC: a poor country where people live in poverty

MEDC/EDC: a rich country when people have a good standard of living.

Location: many areas suffer poverty due to  extreme climate as this affects crop production

Natural disasters: some areas are more prone to natural disasters than other, many LEDC's don't have the resources to cope and recover from them.

Population growth: tends to be higher in LEDC's where there's a lack of contraception and people tend to have more children because many babies die in infancy.

Politics and corruption: areas that don't have stable governments (leads to wars) or have a corrupt government who keep the wealth to themselves can lead to poverty.

Mutual dependence: when two countries need something from each other so rely on each other. This can be equal but is usually favours MEDC's so they have the power to exploit ( take advantage of someone) the LEDC's and buy their goods for a small price so the LEDC's stay poor.

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Religious teachings about world poverty


Wealth must be earnt honestly (right livelihood) as long as it doesn't cause others to suffer. Wealth should be used for others but not hoarded. Generosity creates good karma and craving wealth creates greed, which causes suffering and attachment (goes against anicca- impermanence). Giving to charity is in keeping with anicca and prevents attachment. Wealth should be used to allow other to have the necessities of life. "Look upon the world as a...mirage...for the wise there is no attachment at all"


They believe that those in need must be helped whatever their race or religion (parable of the good Samaritan and "love you neighbour as yourself"). Spending life obsessing over money prevents Christians getting close to God or showing their love for him ("You cannot serve both God and money"). Money should be used to help the poor and homeless.

"God has no hands on earth now but ours"- Mother Theresa

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Justice, stewardship and compassion

Justice:fair treatment. God is completely just and world poverty offends against God's sense of justice

Stewardship: using money and other resources wisely. Humans were created to look after the world by God so it is our responsibility to care for everyone on the planet. Buddhists believe stewardship gives people responsibility too because we are all human.

Compassion (Karuna): showing care in a practical way because of feeling pity.

Voluntary service: a person who chooses to work with the poor without being paid.

Religious organisation: a organisation based on religious principles.

Christian Aid: set up 1964 originally to help homeless wound soldiers after WWII. It provides practical help for those living in poverty and publicises the causes of poverty in hope that governments will use their power to influence and do something about it. Their current focus is on climate change as they recognise this as one of the factors that is worsening poverty. They campaign to raise awareness about: HIV, conflict, unfair trade and corruption.

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Unfair trade: trade where producers are exploited by buyers.

Fairtrade: a system of trading that ensures fair prices for produce from LEDC's.

The Fairtrade Foundation was founded in 1992. Its purpose it to ensure that workers and farmers are not exploited, it operates in countries in Africa, Aisa, Latin America and the Caribean.

Fairtrade work with producers to determine a minimum price and a premium paid to a producer for their goods. The premium is invested in social, environmental or economic development projects.

All the major retailers in Britain stock some Fairtrade products so lives of the poor are being improved.

Burma cyclone: On 2nd and 3rd May 2008 cyclone Nargis hit Burma destroying people and their homes. British charities assisted with the aftermath of the cyclone in the first hours and days. However, the Burmese authorities were reluctant to co-operate and hindered relief effort by refusing aid. The British Disasters Emergency committee raised £18 million to help the Burmese people recover from the disaster.

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Emergency/Long-term aid

Emergency aid: immediate assistance to deal with the aftermath of a disaster.

This includes e,emergency food, clean water, medical supplies and shelter. During emergency aid saving life is the most important factor.

Long-term aid: assistance given to a poor country over a long period of time that has a lasting effect.

Sustainable development: people are taught to develop their skills and learn ones which they can use again.

Temporary shelters have to be replaced with permanent ones, transport links have to be re-established, food has to be grown rather than imported and water supplies have to be made safe. This may take years and the likelihood of sustainable development is increased when locals are involved in long-term aid.

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