Hindu Press International- Aug 09, 2018


UNITED STATES, August 8, 2018: Hinduism Today invites Hindus to send us their thoughts and research to [email protected] on how to define ”death” of the physical body in the Hindu tradition. As the following article by Radhika Viswanathan explains, it is a complex issue in today’s technologically advanced medical world and an issue–like taxes–that none of us will escape.

By Radhika Viswanathan, Vox.com
Turns out there’s no true consensus among doctors, bioethicists, and philosophers. The way death is determined can even change as you cross state lines. Is it when our brains completely shut down? Is it when parts of our brains stop working? Is it when our hearts or lungs stop working? Is it when we lose the ability to think? The line can be blurry, especially now that we have technology to keep organs functioning. Because of these artificial ways of sustaining life, differentiating death from life sometimes falls outside of the boundaries of science, according to Robert Veatch, professor emeritus of medical ethics at Georgetown University and the senior research scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics. ”It reflects the intersection of medical science and philosophy and religion,” he said. Most recently, there was the case of 17-year-old Jahi McMath, who was first pronounced dead five years ago after a tonsillectomy in 2013 went awry and left her brain-dead. But McMath was connected to a ventilator, and her heart continued to beat (the heart has an internal pacemaker, so it needs only regular oxygen to beat). Her mother, grandmother, and other family members believed that this meant she was still alive, and fought to keep her connected to a ventilator. The story became the subject of a lengthy New Yorker profile by Rachel Aviv.

After doctors in California declared her dead, McMath was transported to a hospital in New Jersey, which kept her on the life-sustaining treatment until she finally died of liver failure on June 22. But the battle is not over yet. According to the New Yorker, the family, who is African American, felt they were discriminated against (racism, no doubt, runs deep through the American medical system). McMath’s family is currently planning to file a wrongful-death suit against the hospital that declared her brain-dead, as well as a federal civil rights case. Over the past few decades, other cases — like those of Terri Schiavo, Nancy Cruzan, Karen Ann Quinlan, and Marlise Munoz — have sparked similar national debates about what rights an unresponsive person has, what rights their families have, and what a hospital’s responsibility is.

Most death determination is left to medical professionals, as it should be. But in these rare cases of uncertainty, when death actually has room for interpretation and the patient’s wishes are unclear, family members sometimes feel doctors don’t give their opinions enough respect. Trying to understand what death means can help decide the best way to determine when someone has died. And beyond the medical ramifications, it turns out that untangling death actually tells us a lot about what it means to be alive.

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HOUSTON, TEXAS, August 6, 2018 (Press Release): The American Red Cross awarded Sewa International a US$500,000 grant to rebuild homes of the economically underprivileged devastated by Hurricane Harvey in Rosharon Village, Brazoria County, Texas. Since day one of Hurricane Harvey’s sweep across Southern Texas damaging property and destroying lives, Sewa International has been at the forefront of rescue operations initially, and then in relief and rehabilitation efforts. See Hinduism Today’s report at: https://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/ … tion/item.php?itemid=5832

One of the most affected communities was Rosharon in Brazoria County which suffered major damage. Known as Little Cambodia, Rosharon with a population of approximately 1,400, is 30 miles south of Houston in an underserved rural area. Home to predominantly Cambodians refugees, and some Laotian and Mexican refugees, the majority eke out a livelihood in this insular setting through subsistence farming. Families here had fled Cambodia in the late 1970s escaping the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge. Nearly fifty percent of the families are involved in growing water spinach, a staple of Asian cuisine. When Hurricane Harvey roared through South Texas it devastated Little Cambodia, bringing down houses rendering people homeless, and leveling greenhouses thus destroying livelihoods.

The Sewa International team members in Houston raised over $2 million for disaster recovery in less than a year since Hurricane Harvey hit, including the latest American Red Cross grant of $500,000. Sewa was the recipient of a $397,000 grant awarded by the Greater Houston Community Foundation (GHCF) in December 2017, providing case management help for 600 individuals. Completing the work in record time, Sewa International ended up helping 1,600 individuals from minority and underprivileged communities, earning kudos from GHCF. Thus, this grant from the American Red Cross is an affirmation of the good work done by Sewa as well as acknowledgement of the can-do spirit of this Hindu faith-based charitable organization standing out amongst its mainstream peers. Gitesh Desai, President of the Houston Chapter of Sewa International who has for months lived in a hotel room as his house was flooded, said ”We are honored for the recognition by American Red Cross, a major humanitarian organization. We are grateful to them for reposing their trust and confidence in us through this amazing gift. The grant further strengthens Sewa International’s resolve to fulfill our mission of giving back to the society through selfless service – a cornerstone of our Hindu faith.”


It is always good to endure injuries done to you, but to forget them is even better.
— Tirukkural

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