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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 36  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 169-170

On being human: Where ethics, medicine, and spirituality converge

Associate Professor, National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, Baba Gang Nath Marg, Munirka, Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication22-Aug-2011

Correspondence Address:
Poonam Khattar
Associate Professor, National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, Baba Gang Nath Marg, Munirka, Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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How to cite this article:
Khattar P. On being human: Where ethics, medicine, and spirituality converge. Indian J Community Med 2011;36:169-70

How to cite this URL:
Khattar P. On being human: Where ethics, medicine, and spirituality converge. Indian J Community Med [serial online] 2011 [cited 2022 Jul 2];36:169-70. Available from: https://www.ijcm.org.in/text.asp?2011/36/2/169/84145

Authors: Daisaku Ikeda, Rene' Simard, Guy Bourgearult

Publishers: Middleway Press,

Santa Monica, CA 90401

Year of Publication: 2003

Pages: 253

Price: $15.95 USA,$23.95

CANISBN: 0-9723267-1-5 (Softcover)

ISBN: 0-9723267-1-5 (Softcover)

The ever-accelerating pace of social change imposes intense mental stress on us as human beings, sapping out our inner spiritual strength and leading to depression and other mental disorders, including what could be called "sickness of the soul." This book deals with health, disease, bioethics, and education, focusing on the problems of cancer and AIDS, in the form a dialogue among the authors, having vast expertise in their own specialized disciplines. The authors deliberate upon the fundamental issues of nature and harmonious coexistence, moving on to deal with the specific issues of brain death, dignified death, and the ethical dimensions of fertility and child birth. The authors urge the reader to envisage a century in which life is supreme, such as how must we protect ourselves from the pathological character of modern society? What new conceptions of humanity, what new cosmologies can guide us in the new millennium?

The chapter one on "Cancer and AIDS" begins with a brief note on Hippocrates, who was the first one to establish a clear distinction between medicine and prayer; and set medicine on its proper course by distancing it from mystical healing and orienting it toward the formation of a diagnostic method centered on observation and comparison of symptoms, analysis of causes, and-on the basis of these-prognosis of a diseases progression. Dr. Simard throws light on various factors, such as age and geography in the incidence of cancer, prevention, and treatment. It highlights in simple charts the twelve measures for Cancer Prevention, and ten warning signs, reasons for delayed cancer diagnosis, and psychological/emotional factors often linked with the cancer patients. The chapter brings to forefront the sensitive issue of disclosure of disease to the patient by the doctor and his bond with the patient. Dr. Ikeda explains the three dimensions of human suffering from the Buddhist perspective: physical pain, spiritual, mental and social anguish related to family and society, and existential agony or fear of death. The book, in most lucid form of dialogue, provides an opportunity to cancer and AIDS sufferers and other people concerned, about the impact of technological breakthroughs on their own lives. The authors shed light on the stigmatization and discrimination of AIDS patients, partially arising from the nature of the sickness, but even more from people's perceptions of it. In this context, Dr. Ikeda highlights the need to build society dedicated to human rights, and supporting human rights entails support for HIV-infected people. The subsection on "cloning and the values of life" describes vividly the dilemma of cloning as a technically advanced process comparable with keeping a spare tire to be used at will for organ transplant vis-a-vis that of practices which are contrary to human dignity.

Chapter two captures very succinctly the issues such as the oneness of sickness and health, harmony, stress as spice of life, coping with mental illness, human rights of the mentally disturbed and malnutrition, and harmony. The chapter on Bioethics puts forth the fundamental question, "what kind of humanity do we want for tomorrow" with respect to an awareness-a will-to tackle new problems connected with the development and use of technologies in the biomedical field. At the core, the book spells out the ethical and moral issues of euthanasia, brain death, and terminal care for patients. The authors maintain focus throughout on the processes related to dignity of human life.

While reading the book, one appreciates the fact that the authors have supported their dialogues with excerpts from related literature and cited the work of many eminent personalities on each of the topics in question. They capture very vividly each issue related to human life from the medial, religion, and Buddhist perspective. The final chapter, "Dawn of century of life," raises the fundamental questions related to techno-scientific development. The future of humanity and of life on our planet will depend upon controlling technological development. What kind of control will be exercised? How will it be enforced? In this regard, Dr. Bourgeault highlights that in this instance, ethical issues become political. The dialogues in the book cut through linguistic and cultural barriers to present a vision of the potential-and the inherent challenges-of human being. Lilian Chan, editor of Wellness Option magazine and the author of The Wellness Options Guide to Health comments, "From the very basic quest for the meaning of life to the consciousness of it; from how to live to how to be; from birth to eternity-the dialogue and discussions never ceased to enlighten. I finished the book assured and hopeful." The postscript elucidates the feelings, when the authors express that the discussions of life and health usually remain well within the limits of biomedical domain-scientific, technological, and professional. However, during the discussions in this book, they have transcended those limits to include the anthropological, social, and political dimensions, which, too often, are ignored. The book finishes by presenting an optimistic view that the readers would be more aware and armed with a lucidity that will boost their momentum.

About the authors

Daisaku Ikeda is President of the Soka Gakkai International, one of the dynamic Buddhist associations in the world.

Rene' Simard is a well-known authority in the field of physiology and cytobiology and a pioneer in the research on antimetabolics and anticancer agents. He was the Rector of the University of Montreal from 1993-1998.

Guy Bourgeault is a Professor at the University of Montreal, where he directs research on bio-ethics and education.


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