Reflection on Euthanasia: Western and African Ntomba Perspectives on the Death of a Chief
Bikopo, Deogratias Biembe
Van Bogaert, Louis-Jacques
Developing world bioethics 2010 Apr ; 10(1): 42-8
Largely, the concept of energy or vital force, as first analysed by Placide Tempels in Bantu Philosophy, permeates most African ontology systems, worldviews and life views. The Ntomba Chief is chosen because of his above average vital force. This puts him in the position of intermediary between the Supreme Being, the ancestors, and his subordinates. The waning of his energy is incompatible with his position because his energy is that of his tribe. When installed, he takes an oath that, when this happens, he has to accept mohilo, the 'hastening of death'. In the Chief's case, the hastening of death is not intended to relieve his pain, as it would be with other creatures. The Chief's dying a natural death would result in the loss of the entire community's vital force. Therefore, he has to be killed ritually to avoid that risk. That the Chief agrees to be killed - via a form of advanced directive - poses an ethical dilemma for a Western observer. From the Ntomba perspective, however, where the energy is being, and being is energy, it is the only way to preserve and protect the community's raison d'être.
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