On Being Human
Buddhist thinker Daisaku Ikeda with cancer researcher Rene Simard and bioethicist Guy Bourgeault explore contemporary attitudes toward physical, mental and spiritual health. Seeking common ground on what constitutes human life, the three bring together the divergent perspectives of Western humanism, Buddhism and the biomedical sciences.
They ambitiously break through yet take into account linguistic and cultural barriers to describe the whole human being.
Broached, for example, are both the ethical questions and the biomedical complexities surrounding in vitro fertilization, stem-cell research and cloning. An informative medical review of cancer and AIDS, On Being Human also discusses the social stigmas against those suffering from the diseases. In each topic, the authors shape a composite image of the core issues that weigh on the public conscience, among them:
- When does life begin? When does it end?
- How does one define well-being in the case of brain death?
- What human rights are at stake?
- Is death with dignity a choice—and whose choice?
Simard stresses that “if we want to preserve the human element in life, we must make certain that more people can analyze and discuss scientific and social problems.” Bourgeault and Ikeda agree.
For his part, Ikeda offers insights into the spiritual dimension of “the human element” from the Buddhist view and how this dimension, along with education, informs the individual’s ability to discern the issues for themselves.
Links between health and environment lead to discussions on environmental ethics and sustainable development, which, in turn, raise questions about the health of society and civilization as a whole.