Health Sciences Building, 155 College Street, Room 106
  • April 27, 2016 from 4:10pm to 5:30pm

Speaker: Sean Hillman, PhD (c) Religion/Bioethics/South Asian Studies, Clinical Bioethics Fellow, Centre for Clinical Ethics

This talk will address two distinct and exemplary ritual end-of-life practices from the South Asian religious traditions of Jainism and Buddhism. Both ritualized death types have an ancient history and, although rare, are still practiced today with striking shared features such as fasting and immobilization. Although each practice will be explained and contextualized, the focus will be on Jain sallekhana because of a recent unresolved Public Interest Litigation against the practice in India. I am not alone in suggesting that some medical decision-making approaches can potentially help legitimate the practice to detractors by protecting potential candidates from coercion. These include pain and capacity assessments, informed consent and refusal, and the Rule of Double-Effect (RDE). I will also offer some possible explanations as to why Voluntary Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED) among Jains in particular has been legally contested in India whereas VSED among Buddhists has not.