Buddhism: The Dying and Death Practices

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An important part of being a nurse is understanding many ethnic, cultural, and religious groups and their practices. Nurses should not stereotype their patients, rather they should ask what groups they associate themselves with. The nurse can then perform care that is appropriate for the ethnic, cultural, or religious group they are a part of. When caring for a hospice patient who associates with the religion Buddhism, one should know the history, customs for symptom management, what is considered acceptable or taboo, and the rituals and customs performed for the deceased.

Buddhism first began in North West India about 2,500 years ago (Buddhist Funerals, n.d.). It was first taught by Siddhartha Gautama, who is known as Buddha, also called the Awakened One (The life of the Buddha, n.d.). He taught how to live right and use life’s sufferings to reach enlightenment. His teachings are known as Dharma and have spread from India to China, Tibet, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, United States, and many other places (Buddhist Funerals, n.d.). Those that practice Buddhism in the additional countries follow the general practices of the religion; however, they have made changes and accommodations and essentially have created subtypes of the religion. For example, there is Theravada Buddhism and Thai Forest Tradition in Thailand, Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet, Chan and Zen Buddhism in China, Nichiren Buddhism in Japan, and Buddhism of Sri Lanka (One Mind Dharma, 2017). Knowing the history of Buddhism will help one understand the differences in beliefs and its impact on the treatment and care of the dying.

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Buddhists believe in reincarnation, the rebirth of a life, and karma, the belief that good and righteous actions will provide one happiness and bad and obscene actions will bring him or her suffering. They also believe in compassion. Many Buddhists in hospice or palliative care state that the goal is to be as comfortable as possible, reduce any suffering, and have a peaceful death. In the article, Buddhist Ethics and End-of-Life Care Decisions, it is stated that some Buddhists will refuse medical intervention and will perform various forms of meditation (McCormick, 2013, p. 222). A few may even refuse pain medication. The article also states that many will accept the reality of death to help prepare themselves for their upcoming death (McCormick, 2013, p. 222). It is believed that suffering can help a person reach enlightenment.

There are many different medical interventions that Buddhists find acceptable and some that are taboo. When it comes to life-sustaining treatment, Buddhists believe in the natural process of dying. Therefore, they believe that tube feedings are appropriate when they are not considered a medical treatment but instead a human need (McCormick,

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