What is death?
It used to be that is your heart stopped beating, you were considered to have died. Now, brain death seems to be the main factor. The decision about whether someone is brain dead is made by checking that there is no eye movement, that the pupils in the eyes are fixed and dilated, and that there is no sign of breathing. It does not take into account whether or not the heart is beating. However, people who are brain dead can be kept 'alive' on a life-support machine, despite there being no prospect of 'life' as we know it, and they don't appear to be dead. However at this point, a life-support machine can legally be turned off and death offically declared.
What is death for a religious person?
For a religious person, apart from a Buddhist, the definition of death would include the point at which the soul (spirit) leaves the body to begin an afterlife, whether that is in heaven or hell or being reborn or reincarnated into another body.
When do people think you die?
Many people believe that once you are dead, there is nothing else. You live only in the memories of those you knew and loved, and maybe in what you have achieved. However many relgions believe in heaven and hell, reinacarnation and rebirth.
Jewish, Christian and Muslim beliefs about life af
They believe that when a person dies, God decides whether they should spend eternity in heaven (or paradise) with Him or in hell with the Devil. It depends very much on how they have followed their religion and how their beliefs have affected their actions throughout their life.
Jewish, Christian and Muslim beliefs about before
- Muslims believe there is a 'state of waiting', called Barzakh, between death and the day of judgement. The dead will then enter paradise if Allah invites them to.
- Roman Catholics believe that there is a time of spiritual cleansing and preparation, called purgatory, for some before they enter heaven.
- Other Chrisitians believe God chooses without the need for purgatory
- Jewish belief taken from the Talmud talks about immediate entry into the 'world to come' being reserved for a small minority, with most having to wait around a year so they can review their life and learn from their mistakes.
What people think about heaven and hell
Chrisitianity, Judaism and Islam all use powerful literal images, especially for hell. However, modern thinking suggests that heave is a way of describing a state of being where God has an influence, whereas hell describes a state of being without God's influence.
Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist belief about life after d
- Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists believe in reincarnation or rebirth, which is dependant on good deeds (karma).
- They refer to samsara as being the cycle of birth, death and rebirth (Buddhism) or reincarnation (Hinduism and Sikhsm).
- Hindus and Sikhs describe reincarnation as the soul discsarding the body at death just as a person may take off clothes and put on new ones. Liberation from this cycle is called moksha.
- Buddhists do not believe in the soul or separate self (anatta) - at the time of rebirth, the impermanent life force that is fashioned by actions (karma) is reborn at a different level of life.
What is the generation gap?
- It is the differencein ideas and perceptions between people of different generations
- Young people still tend to think that the elderly are old-fashioned and the elderly sometimes see young people as immoral and a potential threat to their safety
- The comment 'it wasn't like that in my day' is often used by the elderly
What problems are faced by the elderly?
- Many elderly people have to rely on a state pension and possibly state benefits. Poverty can be a real problem
- There is an expectation that an elderly person will retire from all work and live on a pension but many elderly people don't feel ready to retire and would prefer to work in order to keep thier body and mind active. They may feel that their experience is undervalued and will be discarded. Others see retirement as a chance to do something different and less stressful during their remaining years
- Illness can be more serious to the elderly than to younger people. They are more likely to have health problems caused by their age
- They may become less mobile and more dependant on others to get around. As younger people have become more mobile, they may have moved away from where their elderly relatives live
- They may feel worthless to society because they are unable to may a contribution through paid work
What problems are faced by the elderly? (continued
- They may face loneliness if their husband or wife dies. More than 2 million elderly people, most of them women, live alone. Some are housebound and dependant on health or social services to help them do what for others are simple tasks
- The attitudes of others, including the media, can make the elderly feel that they are a burden on their families or on society in general
What is ageism?
Being 'pre-judged' to be inferior or less important because of their age.
Prejudice and discrimination against the elderly.
People have perceptions of them as being old and incapable of modern living.
Are the opinions of the elderly worth listening to
- People seem to forget that many elderly people grew up with the hardships imposed by war
- At that time fathers and brothers joined the armed forces with the expectation that they probably wouldn't return and people constantly faced the fear of death or injury as bombs rained down on their communities
- Many elderly people also faced other challenges, such as bringing up a family and providing food, clothing and a home for them
- Such experiences in their early years must have affected an elderly person's outlook on life and perhaps given them a sense of realism in their expectations
- Coupled with wisdom they have gained through what they've experienced, the elderly have a lot to give to people facing the same kinds of pressure today
Religious beliefs and teachings about the elderly
Respect your father and your mother so that you will live a long time in the land I am giving you. Exodus 20:12
Honour your father and mother. Exodus 20:12
Having supported me, I will support them. Sigalovada Sutta
May his nose be rubbed in dust who found his parents approaching old age and lost his right to enter paradise because he did not look after them. Hadith
What are the options for looking after the elderly
- While some elderly people are able to take care of themselves for the whole of their lives, many need to be cared for as they get older
- This care can be provided by individuals or by a number of institutions
- Many are cared for in their own home or the home of a family member
- Some care is provided by local authorities (although it has to be paid for) and others rely on the support of charities or volunteers
Elderly people living at home
- Many elderly people are strongly independent and prefer to live in their own home, with support
- The local social services may allocate a social worker to them or arrange for someone to help with the housework, perhaps at a small cost
- They also may arrange for a hot meal to be delivered every day by the meals on wheels service at a small cost
- If family live close by, they may visit regularly, however if they have moved away for some reason, they may have to rely on the phone or neighbours and visit only on special occasions
Elderly people living with family
- Many families prefer to have elderly members of their family living with them
- This is a feature of the extended family favoured by Muslims among others
- The ideal situation is when the elderly person is treated as an important member of the family, not as someone who lives there because there is no other option
- Teachings from some religions encourage this out of gratitude, respect and recognition of the wisdom the elderly possess. However some would interpret such teachings as telling people to find the most appropriate way of caring for their elderly parents and this may rule out living with the family
Community options for the elderly - sheltered hous
- Some elderly people move into sheltered housing, where they may rent a small flat within a complex of similar flats with a communal area for socialising
- These are adapted to make them easier for elderly people to use, with warden on duty to help the residents and take charge in an emergency
- It allows elderly people to have some independence and privacy in a place they can call their own
Community options for the elderly - residential ho
- Residental homes for the elderly provide security and care when people are no longer easily able to look after themselves
- Residents usually have their own room, but have use of a communal lounge and dining room
- Meals are provided and some activities are often arranged so that people can socialise if they wish to
Community options for the elderly - care homes, ho
- Elderly people who are unwell may move into a care home, or a hospital for short-term treatment, where they have access to the medical care they need
- If an elderly person has a terminal illness and is close to death, they may spend their final days or weeks in a hopice
What do Buddhists say about the elderly?
- The elderly are respected for their wisdom and experience
- Some Buddhist care organisations help to care for the elderly, offering support for all their needs, including spiritual needs
- However, elderly person's children have a responsibility to look after them, which should be seen as a privilege
- Buddhists believe in anicca (impermancence) and, because they may be ill or nearing death, the elderly are a good example of this
- Looking after one's parents also provides an opportunity to gain good karma
What do Christians say about the elderly?
- Christians should support the elderly as they should be respected and are vulnerable
- Traditionally, Christians have preferred to allow the elderly to keep their independence, but where this is not possible it is a duty to consider the options carefully in order to provide the best for them, including the responsibility of looking after themselves
- Churches provide facilities for the elderly and pastoral support, including regular Holy Communion at home or in a residential care home
What do Hindus say about the elderly?
- One of the five daily duties (Pitri Yajna) is to serve and care for parents and the elderly, who make up one of five sections of society given special respect
- Parents are part of the extended family and, being very important, should be cared for, respected and obeyed throughout their lives
- The eldest son is responsible for taking care of elderly parents, as he is considered the head of the family and takes a leading role at his parent's funeral
- Caring for the elderly earns good karama which helps in the goal of escaping samsarsa and thereby attaining moksha
What do Muslims say about the elderly?
- Islam has an extended family society, which means different generations of family often live together
- Elderly parents have the right to expect their children to care for them and it is the responsibility and duty of the whole family to do this because of the effort and sacrifices the parents have made and for the wisdom they have acquired throughout their life
- Looking after the elderly provides spiritual growth
- Sending elderly parents to a home is seen as unkind and disrespectful
What do Jews say about the elderly?
- In addition to the Fifth Commandment, Jews are also told to 'show respect for the elderly' (Leviticus 19:32)
- Jewish families are encouraged to look after the elderly through the extended family although it is acknowledged that this is not always possible
- Therefore the Jewish community provides specialist homes for the very elderly and frail whose families lack the skills to support them
- However, the wisdom of the elderly is valued
What do Sikhs say about the elderly?
- They believe it is the duty of sons to look after their parents
- This obligation is also seen as a service (sewa)
- In order to assist the family, the Sikh community often offers day care to the elderly in the Gurdwara
- Homes for the elderly are rarely used and members of the extended family often live together
Religious beliefs and teachings about the elderly
Support for one's parents ... this is the highest protection. Maha-Mangala Sutta
Let your mother be a God to you. Let your father be a God to you. Taittiriya Upanishad 1:11:2
The Lord hath decreed that ye be kind to parents. Qur'an 17:23
Who decides if someone should die?
- In the cases of execution and war, the government has the power to decide to allow one person to kill another but some people argue that no government has the right to allow to do this, whatever the circumstances
- This raises the question who, if anybody, has the right to decide to end a person's life and whether actively ending a person's life is any different from allowing a person to die
- This situation is made more difficult if the person says that they would actually prefer to die rather than live in pain
What do religions think about who decides if someo
- All the main religions, except buddhism, believe that only God makes the decision of who dies and when
- However, if this is true, it doesn't help us to decide whether taking life in war is how God intends a person to die
- It does mean that if a person takes their own life or allows their life to be taken, they are sinning against God or earning bad karma
Why do many people support execution?
- To prevent the murderer from killing anyone else
- If they have killed someone they deserve to die too
- Jews support it because the book of Leviticus says 'If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death' (Leviticus 24:17)
What do religions think about taking life?
- All religions condemn illegal killing but many believers think that legal killing is sometimes necessary
- But Buddhists, in particular, are reluctant to engage in any killing, even in war
What is euthanasia?
Inducing a painless death, by agreement and with compassion, to ease suffering
What is the intention of euthanasia?
- To assist a person who is suffering and perhaps close to death by giving them sufficient medication to kill them
- As an act of compassion this will prevent them from suffering any further whilst probably shortening their life by a few days of weeks
Why is euthanasia illegal in Britain?
Because it could be seen as assisting someone to take their own life (suicide), which is in breach of the Suicide Act 1961
Why do people support euthanasia?
Because they believe that people have a right to self-determination and they should have some control over when their own life ends.
What are the three types of euthanasia?
- 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, disabled and sick people were killed without consultation
What is passive and active euthanasia?
- Passive - either where the dose of pain-killing drug, such as morphone, is increased in the belief that it will not only control pain but also shorten life, or where treatment is withhheld or withdrawn because all it is doing is delaying the natural process of dying. Some say that this is not really euthanasia at all
- Active - withholding treatment with the deliberate intention of ending life or giving a drug that will end life
The Swiss organisation Dignitas offers euthanasia for those suffering severe pain or terminal illness. Swiss law permits euthanasia is those assisting the death are not motivated by self interest - they must not use it to get rid of a partner as a matter of convenience or to acquire a large sum of money.
People in other countries see Dignitas as a means of relieving their own suffering by euthanasia and of dying with dignity.
Buddhist views on euthanasia
- Euthanasia is wrong and creates bad karma because it breaks the First Precept not to harm any living thing
- Suffering is a fact of life that must be accepted
- However, it could be argued that if the intention is merciful, it could be allowed
Christian views on euthanasia
- They usually disagree with euthanasia because of their belief in the sanctity of life, preferring to trust in God's mercy
- Some, however, cannot believe that a loving God would want His people to suffer
- They might argue that God-given freewill and intelligence give a person the right to choose to end their life when its quality is greatly reduced
Hindu views on euthanasia
- They believe in ahimsa so euthanasia is not allowed
- Suffereing is believed to be the result of bad karma from a previous life, so it must be accepted
Muslim views on euthanasia
- Only Allah can take life, so euthanasia is therefore against His plan
- However, passive euthanasia may be regarded as compassionate and not true to euthanasia because it enables nature to take its course, whilst relieving pain
Jewish views on euthanasia
- Life is God-given and a blessing that must be treasured
- Because God gives life, only He should take it away
Sikh views on euthanasia
- Only God can give and take life and suffering is part of His plan
- Euthanasia interrupts the plan and so is not allowed
- However, according to some Sikhs, the quality of life is also important and many justify euthanasia in certain cases
The use of life-support machines
- It allows a person to remain alive by assisting or replacing breathing in the hope that the person will recover and be able to breathe normally again
- Without it the person would probably die
- It also includes feeding by passing fluids through a tube directly to the stomach
Other ways of keeping people alive
- In addition to a life-support machine there are other ways of keeping people alive ranging from simple medicines that control otherwise serious conditions, such as diabetes and epilepsy, to 'hi-tech' equipment in hospital used by well-trained and caring medical staff
- If a heart beat stops, it can be restarted with no after effects and people recover from serious surgery that even a decade ago would not have been possible
What religions say about turning off life-support
- All religions support turning of life-support machines for people who are brain dead
- Although they recognise that this may be interpreted as taking God's role in life and death, they would prefer not to keep people alive with little prospect of quality of life, purely to prolong it
Nor take life - which Allah has made sacred - except for just cause. Qur'an 17:33
Can religion help the dying and bereaved?
- Chrisitianity, Islam and Judaism teach that there is an afterlife in heaven with God, and this can be comfort to those who are dying and to the bereaved, who are left behind
- Thos who follow thier faith throughout or for much of their life, and who sincerely ask for God's forgivness, will achieve this reward
- In this way death becomes the beginning of something new and better, building on the faith and closeness to God established in this life
- Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs may gain comfort from the promise of reincarnation or rebirth. However a believer can only hope to be reincarnated or reborn to a better level of life if they have earned good karma by doing good deeds throughout their life
- Religious people will be keen to support a dying person and their family
- They provide help for the dying
- Patients recieve palliative care - sufficient pain relief to maintain relative comfort and consciousness
- Pastoral support can be arranged and the patient's other needs are also met so that they, their friends and their family can prepare for their imminent death
- They can die with diginity in a familiar place, probably in the presence of loved ones
- They give practical support and comfort to the friends and relatives of the dying
- There are hospices that specialise in looking after children, where their specific needs of their families can be better catered for
- It encourages children to enjoy their last months and weeks doing many of the sorts of thing that most children normally do