Chakra Discussions

"Sanctity of life" can harm life

by Subhadra-mayi dasi

Posted April 13, 2005

Though there are a few aspects about Pope John Paul II that I appreciate -- for example, his reaching out to other faiths -- I squirmed a little at the press release from ISKCON Communications. It made no mention of this important aspect of his work but, instead, how the vaishnava community is thankful for the Pope's "firm yet compassionate defense of the dignity and sanctity of human life."

The stand the church took in Africa, for example, with regards to AIDS and the use of condoms is appalling. By openly discouraging the use of condoms, clergymen and the church are responsible for many unnecessary deaths. Now I have heard conflicting reports about this. Some say he never spoke against the use of condoms -- some. If the church was preaching that condoms cause AIDS, he should have taken immediate steps to rectify this.

I also have problems with the church's view of euthanasia. I know I will get many people on their hind legs with this, but I see no dignity in letting people suffer for months or years, and taking away their right to choose their own death. I am a strong believer in the right to die, more so than the duty to live at all costs, especially in the case of the terminally ill.

The church's views on this matter cause a lot of unnecessary suffering. I know that ISKCON is as, or more, conservative than the Roman Catholic Church; still, I feel a very uncomfortable emotion that they are especially thankful. But maybe this community has not been in contact with a long-term terminally-ill person, unlike me. My aunt was released from her coma. I consider her lucky that she had compassionate people around her. This was 20 years ago.

Now another person close to me is in a last stage of Alzheimer's. She is in a nursing home. I will not go into details of her 'treatment'. But if you want to know what a day looks like for Alzheimer's patients, visit a nursing home. You may easily recognize them by the way they are kept sitting up in a chair, for example -- and then follow their daily routine. And then I ask: where is the compassionate defense of the dignity and sanctity of human life?

I feel glad to be removed from ISKCON. Why? If the press release is ISKCON's view on these matters I would be very scared. Because of the genetic aspect of Alzheimer's, I am aware I have a chance to get this disease too, if I happen to reach old age. I hope I will not get it but, just in case, I will make it clear that at an appropriate time I wish my life to be ended should I reach a certain stage. I am truly grateful that I will not be an iSKCON dependant, but that my family instead would respect my decision and wishes.

I still hope that ISKCON devotees can respect the dignity of my life and death to the extent that they would be with me when the moment would be there that I want to go. That is what I hope at this point, though I cannot say how I would feel over 50 years, say. However, as I am an outside observer of this movement, I am grateful for the choices that I can make regarding my life and my death should I be in the situation of becoming terminally ill or being struck with a disease described above. Not everybody has that good fortune.