How do we differentiate between helping the sick and playing God?
When we see an accident victim or a heart-attack victim, our conscience say ‘Yes’ , we should provide medical help immediately , but why our conscience say a big ‘NO’ to administer a lethal injection to a 95 year old bedridden person with no brain function?In both of the cases we are trying to ease their suffering and intervening God’s plan. I mean where should we draw the line between helping people and ‘playing’ God ?
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Transcription By: Dr. Ashish Kumar Puri Prabhu
The essential priciple is that we let nature take its course. In case of a person who is on the verge of death and having no brain function; there are two extremes:
(1) Ventilation: Sometimes a person is kept on ventilation and all sorts of artificial instruments are tied on him/her in coma for years together without any hope of recovery given by doctors. Just for the attachment of the relatives if one keeps prolonging the life unnaturally through artificial means, then it is undesirable.
Now one may ask, is giving medicines to accident victim or heart attack patient not unnatural? No. Within the vedic culture itself there is Apara Vidya i.e material knowledge in harmony with spiritual knowledge e.g. Ayurveda.
When there is sickness, to treat it there are medicines and these medicines are also natural. Taking them is a part of our duty, to take care of our body. And it is part of our duty to take care of our loved ones by offering them these medicines as well as suitable treatment. So when we take medicines to cure ourself from some disease we aren’t interfering with gods plan. Rather the trouble involved in purchasing the medicines and seeking the treatment is also part of our karmic reactions which we have to bear. We should not artificially try to escape it.
The Vedic culture is ultimately, in its conclusion, practical and pragmatic. As long as we have overall health and can function properly we may not over endeavour to take care of our body. And if any accident or disease happen to us then its our duty to cure ourselves and to take care of others so that we can comeback to normal function.
In the 10th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam when Kamsa was about to kill Devaki,he was dissuaded by Vasudev. One of the arguments which Vasudev gave was that “Oh Kamsa ultimately destiny is supreme and none can escape it and if you are destined to be killed by the eighth son of Devaki what will you gain by trying to escape destiny since you will be killed anyways?”
Vasudev didn’t think if it’s Devaki destiny to be killed she would be killed anyways. Why should I bother to stop Kamsa? He didn’t think like that because knowledge of destiny isn’t a justification for abandonement of duty. It was Vasudev’s duty to protect Devaki and he did his duty. He was speaking to Kamsa since he was deviating from his duty. Kamsa’s duty was to protect women, as a member of the royalty, and his sister. He was violating from both of his duties (1) to protect women and (2) to protect his sister. Vasudev stopped him and served a reminder not to violate and derelict his own duty. It was brought in Kamsa’s notice that none can escape destiny. The Vedic culture is not destiny centred but duty centred.
We have to take guidance from those who are deeply learned and wise about spiritual matters. About how our duties are to be implemented? If a person is sick we don’t think it’s his/her destiny to be sick and let the person die, since it’s our duty to heal that person. But if a person is on the verge of death and old with hardly any chance of recovery that time artificially and unnaturally prolonging the life by all sorts of instrumentation is unnatural and may be unnecessary.
(2) Euthanasia (a person with terrible pain wants to terminate his life just to escape pain): The vedic culture doesn’t approve of Euthanasia since all of us have to bear our karma. The body which we have is also not our property, thus if we try to destroy the body which we have then it would lead to further bad karma adding to our complications.
In order to escape pain we should not try to end our or someone else’s life. Therefore, euthanasia is certainly not recommended. Palliative care can be taken to ease the pain but just dragging on life pointlessly is also not recommended.
In general we let nature take its own course and within that course if it’s possible for us to assist the person then we try doing that. But in practice of general principles of practicality one has to take guidance in individual case to decide the right course of action.