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Unformatted text preview: Buddhism and Medical Ethics: A Bibliographic Introduction James J. Hughes MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics Damien Keown Goldsmiths, University of London Published in the Journal of Buddhist Ethics , Volume Two, 1995 ISSN 1076-9005 BUDDHISM AND MEDICINE It has not gone unnoticed that the Buddhist aim of eliminating suffering coincides with the objectives of medicine (Duncan et al, 1981; Soni, 1976). The Buddhist emphasis on compassion finds natural expression in the care of the sick, and according to the Vinaya the Buddha himself stated "Whoever, O monks, would nurse me, he should nurse the sick" (Zysk, 1991:41). Buddhist clergy and laity have been involved with the care of the sick for over two thousand years. The Indian Buddhist emperor Asoka states in his second Rock Edict that provision has been made everywhere in his kingdom for medical treatment for both men and animals, and that medicinal herbs suitable for both have been imported and planted. Birnbaum (1979) and Demieville (1985) provide good general introductions to Buddhism and medicine. Buddhism appears to have played an important role in the evolution of traditional Indian medicine (Zysk, 1991), and there are many parallels between Buddhist medicine, as recorded in the Pali canon, and Aayurveda (Mitra, 1985). There are short monographs by Haldar on the scientific (1977) and public heath aspects (1992) of medicine in the Pali sources. It is likely that as Buddhism spread through Asia it would have interacted with indigenous medical traditions promoting the cross-fertilization of ideas. Redmond (1992) discusses the relationship of Buddhism to medicine from Theravaada and Mahaayaana perspectives and compares Buddhist and Daoist concepts of disease. Discussions of Tibetan medicine may be found in Clifford (1984), Dhonden (1986), and Rechung (1976), while Ohnuki-Tierney (1984) discusses illness and culture in contemporary Japan. Buddhism's holistic understanding of human nature encourages a psychosomatic approach to the pathology of disease (Soni, 1976), something to which Western medicine is now increasingly attuned. It may also be suggested that the Buddhist philosophy of origination in dependence is both a fruitful diagnostic model and a philosophy which encourages a preventive approach to healthcare. However, disquiet has been voiced recently about how "natural" certain forms of traditional Buddhist medicine are - notably the Tibetan "black pill" - some recipes for which specify rhinoceros horn and bear-bile among the ingredients (Leland, 1995). MEDICAL ETHICS Despite Buddhism's long association with the healing arts, little attention has been paid to the ethical issues which arise from the practice of medicine. A small number of monographs provide introductions to the issues and dilemmas which arise in medical practice. These are Ratanakul (1986), Nakasone (1990) and Keown (1995), and these volumes should be consulted in conjunction with the sources listed under the specific subject-headings...
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This note was uploaded on 08/31/2011 for the course STS 302 taught by Professor Nkriesbert during the Summer '08 term at N.C. State.
- Summer '08