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During this COVID-19 pandemic, many people are wondering “what if?”.  Now might be a good time to think about what’s really important in terms of a living will or euthanasia.  Many people have asked me for a copy of what I’ve written to use as a model, and I’m happy to share. 

Living Wills:

First of all lets see what it means:

A Living Will is not the same as a Will and Testament.  A living will is a document which expresses what you want to happen regarding medical treatment while you are still alive.  It typically explains whether or not you want to be kept on life support if you become terminally ill and will die shortly without life support, or fall into a persistent vegetative state. It also addresses other important questions, detailing your preferences for tube feeding, artificial hydration, and pain medication in certain situations.

It only becomes effective when you aren’t able to communicate your desires on your own, so it’s important to put it in writing and have the discussion, so there can be no confusion for family members who have to made difficult decisions in a moment of crisis and high stress.  Without it, doctors or hospitals may decide they are legally obligated to perform certain procedures that you would not desire.

You may also have heard the term “DNR” (Do not resuscitate): This is an order on your medical chart advising health professionals that extraordinary measures should not be used to attempt to save your life.

With regards to a living will, here’s what the Bahá’í Writings have to say:

As to the Bahá’í viewpoint on the removal of withholding of life support in medical cases where intervention prolongs life in disabling illnesses, nothing has been found in the Sacred Text specifically on this matter. In such cases decisions must be left to those responsible, including the patients.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 290)

Here’s how I’ve worded mine:

Ongoing Care

Decisions about the kind of care I am to receive are to be made in accordance with the following requests.  I wish to have maximum independence.

    • I wish to continue my life as an active Bahá’í. At a minimum, this includes assistance in:
    • saying the daily obligatory prayer (short one at noon is fine), with ablutions and facing east;
    • reciting prayers (I like to say a minimum of three, including a prayer for teaching or triumph of the Cause) and reading the Bahá’í Writings morning and evening (including a short discussion of the applicability of these teachings to daily life if I am capable of such thought);
    • regular sacrificial donations to the funds of the Faith every 19 days and the payment of Huququllah each year (I have been submitting it monthly it should be up to date.
    • regular attendance at 19 Day Feasts and Holy Day Celebrations;

All of these things are to be done regardless of whether or not I appear to be getting anything out of them. My soul will benefit if nothing else.

    • My preference is for naturopathic or homeopathic medicine, using herbs instead of drugs, wherever possible.
    • If I am bedridden for any length of time, please use the sheepskin currently on my bed (and my own sheets if possible).

No heroic Measures

In the case of life threatening situations, I wish to have no heroic measures whatsoever.

I do not wish any life-support treatment which includes medical devices put in me to help prolong my life or anything else meant to keep me alive.

If I have permanent and severe brain damage, and I am not expected to get better, and life-support treatment would only delay the moment of my death I do not want life-support treatment. If it has been started, I want it stopped.

If I am in a coma from which I am not expected to wake up or recover, and I have brain damage, and life-support treatment would only delay the moment of my death I do not want life-support treatment. If it has been started, I want it stopped.

If I am unable to take care of myself, mentally or physically, and life-support treatment will not help me recover I do not want life-support treatment. If it has been started, I want it stopped.

I want to be offered food and fluids by mouth, and kept clean and warm at all times.

I want such pain medication as necessary to make me comfortable. 

Near Death

When I am near death, I would like Bahá’í prayers and readings read aloud and/or calm, peaceful, spiritual music played until I am dead.

I wish for Bahá’ís (the Local Spiritual Assembly and/or others) to be informed of my condition and asked to pray for me and to visit me.  If possible, please notify people on my 2 Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin accounts and ask them for prayers; and contact the House of Justice at secretariat at bwc.org; and ask them to put me on the prayer list, praying specifically for steadfastness up to the hour of my death.

I wish to be cared for with kindness and cheerfulness, and not sadness. I am eagerly anticipating my life in the next world.

I want to die at home or in hospice and my body to be prepared according to Bahá’í procedures by Bahá’ís who are able to do so.

Euthanasia

Euthanasia is the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.  You may have also heard it referred to as “mercy killings” or “assisted suicide” or “assisted death” or “right to die”.

With regards to euthanasia, here’s what the Bahá’í Writings have to say:

As to the Bahá’í viewpoint on the removal of withholding of life support in medical cases where intervention prolongs life in disabling illnesses, nothing has been found in the Sacred Text specifically on this matter. In such cases decisions must be left to those responsible, including the patients.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 290)

We have received your letter of March 18, 1974 in which you ask for the Bahá’í viewpoint on euthanasia and on the removal of life support in medical cases where physiological interventions prolong life in disabling illnesses. In general our teachings indicate that God, the Giver of life, can alone dispose of it as He deems best, and we have found nothing in the Sacred Text on these matters specifically but in a letter to an individual written on behalf of the beloved Guardian by his secretary regarding mercy killings, or legalized euthanasia, it is stated: “…this is also a matter which the Universal House of Justice will have to legislate.” Until such time as the Universal House of Justice considers legislation on Euthanasia, decisions in the matters to which you refer must be left to the conscience of those responsible.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 290-291)

So even though suicide is forbidden in the Faith, until such time as the House of Justice considers legislation on these matters, living wills and euthanasia are left to individual conscience.

As the legalities of both situations vary from place to place, it’s best to consult a lawyer to set these things in motion if that’s your wish.

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Any thoughts on these topics?  Post your comments below.

 

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