Sallekhana: The Ethicality and Legality of Religious Suicide by Starvation in the Jain Religious Community
Medicine and Law: The World Association for Medical Law 2008 December; 27(4): 913-924
This article examines Sallekhana, the Jain religious ritual of fasting to death, from the American and Indian legal and ethical perspectives. Two cases are presented. The first involves a woman in her twenties who starved herself to escape a voice in her head. The second case involves a woman with terminal cancer who chose to starve to death rather than accept palliative care. Both are analyzed with attention paid to the Jain theological rationale behind the practice and the social circumstances that predicate this vow. I argue that within Jain communities the moral presumption should be that Sallekhana is a valid religious ritual and should therefore be legally protected if it is freely chosen by an informed person free from coercion.
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