Matters of Life and Death

A two-cell human embryo

Advances in modern medical technology have blurred many of the lines and distinctions that once seemed so clear--including even that between life and death. With modern life-support systems, people may spend weeks, months or even years in a state in which it is not clear to what degree they are able to sense or understand their surroundings. This so-called persistent vegetative state and the related question of brain death are among the many complex issues referred to as bioethics, where a whole new range of ethical choices are raised by the brave new possibilities technology brings, such as genetic screening, stem cell research and sophisticated life-support technologies. The SGI Quarterly asked individuals from different faith traditions to explain their perspective on issues of life and death and bioethics, and share how their beliefs equip them to take the best decisions in today's rapidly changing world.

A Death Mask  [Tokyo Fuji Art Museum]

This feature is by no means intended to be comprehensive. The views expressed here represent individuals from a number of religious traditions, commenting in a personal capacity and not necessarily on behalf of their tradition. The views of people of other faiths, including indigenous and secular humanist perspectives, could not be included. It is to be hoped however that these articles have stimulated thought and increased understanding of how others approach the complex issues of bioethics, which pose dilemmas common to us all and demand that we each draw on the sources of wisdom and compassion we trust.