One of the toughest situations a parent could face is watching his or her child slowly pass away from an incurable and painful disease. As time goes on, the child's only hope for living for perhaps a few weeks or months is by the aid of a life-support system. The doctor has asked the parent if he or she has considered taking the child off the support system, and donating the organs to other children in great need. How do you respond? Do you choose to have your child remain on life-support, or you take the life altering decision of removing him or her and allow your child's organs to be donated? If I were in such a painful and overwhelming position, I would choose to allow the doctors to remove my child from the life-support system, and to donate my child's organs to other unhealthy children. I will justify my decision from a Mahayana Buddhist perspective, while explaining the ideas of sila, metta, karuna, dana, and kusala, and I will also account for all the pros and cons of each course of action.
Sila means doing good and refraining from doing evil with bodily action and speech. Right View and Right Attitude encourage sila because once you see the truth, you are no longer inclined to use your body or speech for harming yourself or other beings (Class lecture, Nov.7/01). You feel responsible; you are not going to misuse your own body or someone else's, or cause harm to other beings intentionally. By removing my child from the life-support system in order to prevent him/her from undergoing a further painful life and by donating his/her organs to another child in need, I won't be causing harm to the child, but instead giving the chance of life to another human being. I may have caused harm unintentionally, but I did not have the intention to hurt. That's the difference. .
When there is sila, there is emotional balance and we feel at peace. Because we don't hurt or steal or lie, there are no regrets, we are not guilt ridden, and there is a feeling of calm, equanimity, and humility.