Akhandadhi Das: Is it ethical to compel doctors actively to end life?

I have long contended that it’s unethical to compel doctors, whose very reason is to prolong life, to end it, either through the termination of pregnancy or euthanasia. The Mental Capacity Act raises the converse issue: Doctors can be stopped from providing life-preserving treatments by the wishes of their patients. Some might feel that this compromises their vocation as a doctor.

For me, the question then becomes: is acquiescing to a patient’s refusal of all interventions contrary to the dharma of a physician? Hinduism approaches it from the underlying philosophical principle that life belongs to the soul residing within the material body. The soul is an eternal spiritual entity and the body is a mechanical vehicle to be employed to best advantage whilst it lasts.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Theology

3 comments on “Akhandadhi Das: Is it ethical to compel doctors actively to end life?

  1. phil swain says:

    “… the body is a mechanical vehicle to be employed to best advantage whilst it lasts.” Does Hinduism really teach such a stark mind- body dualism as this quote indicates? I pray that the Catholic Church’s teaching on the theology of the body will permeate our society before the Brave New World becomes a reality.

  2. Reactionary says:


    This is a difficult issue, and implicates the duty to the living as well. Medical science has advanced to the point where we can keep living corpses going in ICU wards. These poor souls are Petri dishes for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. People are going in hospitals for broken bones and becoming septic from staphylococcus. A nursing home worker cuts a finger, and in a week doctors are desperately amputating an entire limb to stop bacteria that literally devours flesh.

    I watched an uncle die in a hospital for a month, and what I learned about respirators convinced me I’d never want to be on one. An elderly neighbor told me of a friend who died after telling her doctors she would not go on a respirator a second time. The duty of a doctor at that point is to prescribe medication that will assuage the body’s panic reaction to insufficient oxygen.

  3. phil swain says:

    Reactionary, I agree with you that persons who are terminally ill should not have to receive extraordinary medical treatment. I understood the author to be saying something different. Based upon his belief that we are identified with our minds or souls and that our bodies are merely instruments, he approves of persons refusing life-saving medical treatment when their bodies become too much of a hindrance to them. Although I don’t believe the West is about to adopt Hinduism, a similar form of mind-body dualism has infected our culture through the triumphs of technology. My point was that in today’s culture it is the Catholic Church that is providing the bulwark against the culture of death which is represented by this author.