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Death - Unresolved puzzle of a hazy zone between life and death


Unresolved puzzle of a hazy zone between life and death

Death seems to be a final full stop to our life on Earth. But scientists are not sure when and where to put this full stop. The full stop we put at present is NOT the final act of the drama of life. There is still a part of the script to be played out. There is still a life 'living' out there and also a life waiting to be revived. Sounds weird? Can't help. Reality seems to be warped around the point of death.

As scientists do not have a clear definition of Life, so also they do not have a very clear understanding of what death is. This is obvious from the definition of death in a dictionary - “the action or fact of dying; the end of the life of a person or organism”. If death is ‘end of life’, then what exactly is ‘end of life’? Probably it means ‘death’ :)☺A circular paradox ☺

In order to define death, we need to distinguish it from life. However there is no clear consensus about the definition of life itself. In simplistic terms, death would seem to refer to the moment at which life ends. However there is no clear consensus as to when exactly in point of time we can say that life has ended. The cessation of bodily functions is not simultaneous across organ systems. Many of our body functions continue even after we officially declare a person to be dead.If we have to follow the ethical interpretation of death, then a person can not be declared as dead unless and until ALL of his body functions have ceased to be alive, even though his brain is dead and his heart has stopped beating. Anything else will be a compromise on ethical values.

In earlier times, death was defined as the cessation of heartbeat and of breathing. It is now considered as a highly premature declaration of death as the person can be revived even after his heart has stopped beating. Till about the early seventies, there was no law of declaring a person as dead only after he is brain dead. All the persons whose hearts have stopped beating were declared dead and cremated. It means that hundreds of thousands of people whose hearts have stopped beating but whose brain was showing activity were legally not given a chance to live. Can the same be said of the current legal definition of death (as when a person is ‘brain dead’) after a few decades in future when it would have been possible to revive even a brain dead person? Where to draw the definite line with clear conscience without crossing an ethical line?

It is now generally thought that brain death is final as it signals a complete and irreversible destruction of the brain, including brain stem. Even though his heart can still be kept beating with the help of ventilators, he is considered as brain dead. In many countries around the globe these subjects are classified as ‘living cadavers’. It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Real horror is further. Some of these persons are kept ‘alive’ in order to (officially) facilitate harvesting of their organs at an appropriate time. It sounds like keeping live fish in a water tub to keep them fresh before they are eaten.

A major dilemma is happening when in very rare cases a person who is declared as ‘brain dead’ gets mysteriously revived. Scientists have absolutely no clue as to how this happens or rather how this CAN happen. There are also cases when a pregnant woman who is brain dead is kept on life support system and then delivers a viable baby. It means that the baby has been growing in the womb of the brain dead woman. Doesn't this prove that the body functions of a brain dead person are fully functional? If this is so what authority do we have to play God and declare such a person as dead and cremate him (probably still alive as per the definition of death at some future time and also with a possibility of revival). This note does not take any stand in such matters. The way our medical and legal system operates, there is no clear cut answers to such a dilemma. The purpose of bringing this stark and unpleasant reality of life and death out is to stress the need to look for answers in some other directions. Sri Anand Yoga does answer this question with clear conscience.

Then there is another very serious issue we face here. What about the consciousness of a person in such a dyeing stage? He may be medically declared as unconscious. But behind this veil of ‘medical consciousness’ lies a real consciousness at a deeper level which is beyond (at least at present stage) the scope of medical cognizance. Assuming that with the advancement of technology a person is ‘kept’ alive, what then will be the state of his inner well being during such a period between life and death? Isn’t he suffering immensely for being kept confined inside a cage of life when his call for onward journey beyond life has come?

We will examine these issues in our separate note on the spiritual aspect of death and how the philosophy and practice of Sri Anand Yoga effectively deals with it.


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