From a Baha’i viewpoint, true health extends beyond the physical. For an individual and a community to be healthy, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical wellbeing are all required. As humanity’s understanding increases regarding the connection between the spiritual and emotional well-being of a patient and how this can affect their physical health, physicians and other health care providers will come to appreciate the benefit of understanding the beliefs and religious practices of their patients in order to provide optimal care for them.
The Baha’i Faith teaches that individuals should seek the assistance of competent physicians for medical treatment. Since the Baha’i Faith teaches that true science and religion cannot contradict each other, the application of medical and technological advances does not contradict Baha’i beliefs.
Consultation with expert doctors for somatic and psychological conditions is strongly encouraged.
There are no limitations on prescribed drugs for Baha’is.
Baha’is can receive and donate organs.
Baha’is are free to have an amputation if required.
Baha’is may wish to have symbols such as a picture of a nine-pointed star present in their hospital room. It should be placed in a position of respect. Other objects may include a photograph of ‘Abdu`l-Bahá, son of the Prophet Founder of the Baha’i Faith, a prayer book, or other books containing Baha’i Writings. No special room is needed for prayers.
MEDICAL & NURSING CARE
The use of blood transfusions, organ transplants, or advanced technology and engineering is not prohibited. In care giving, the patient’s spiritual needs and dignity should be supported whenever possible. Whether it is preferable that a same-sex doctor be assigned to a Bahá'í is entirely a matter of personal choice.
Since from a Bahá’í point of view, the soul is present from conception, abortion is strongly discouraged. It is not considered acceptable as a means of birth control, but allowable for medical reasons.
Baha’is pray daily and believe sickness can be healed both through the use of medicine and the use of prayer. As there is no clergy in the Baha’i Faith, the believers are free to pray and consult about making medical decisions according to the Baha’i teachings. The local governing body (Local Spiritual Assembly) of the Baha’is or the national governing council (National Spiritual Assembly) may be contacted for advice on the appropriate course in order to keep the Baha’i laws.
It is appropriate for members of the clergy of other faiths to visit the Baha’is. Readings from the Baha’i Sacred Writings, the Bible, the Koran, other holy books or inspirational texts may be read at the bedside of an ill Baha’i.
DIET/FOOD PREFERENCE & PRACTICES
There are no dietary restrictions for Baha’is. The Baha’i writings, however, point to nutrition as an essential factor in maintaining and restoring good health. Should a Baha’i require hospitalization during the period of fasting, a physician should be consulted for information regarding possible health issues, and to provide guidance for the patient. During the Fasting period (March 20th – 21st), Baha’is between the ages of 15 to 70 years old, do not eat or drink between dawn and sunset, except in the case of pregnancy, travel or ill health.
Individual Baha’is are free to use their judgment, depending on their illness, as to whether to participate in the various practices and commemorations on the Baha’i calendar such as the Fast, and to seek the counsel of a competent physician in cases of uncertainty.
END OF LIFE CARE
The decision to remove or withhold life support in medical cases where intervention prolongs life in disabling illness must be left to those responsible, notably the patient/surrogate and the physician.
The body of the departed should be treated with honor and respect, and the family or local governing body of the Baha’i should be contacted. There are no formal last rites for Baha’is. However, prayers may be offered by family, friends, or hospital clergy. The burial should take place within an hour’s travel time from the place of death. There is no restriction on the mode of travel for the journey. There is no provision as to the time limit before burial.
However, the sooner it takes place the more fitting and preferable. Embalming of the body is to be avoided. When circumstances do not permit interment of the body soon after passing, or when it is a legal requirement, the body may be embalmed provided the process delays the natural decomposition of the body for a short time only. Autopsies are permitted. At their discretion, family members may participate in preparing the body for burial. It should be carefully washed and placed in a shroud of white cloth, preferably silk. If a Baha’i burial ring is available, it should be placed on the finger of the deceased.
According to Baha’i teachings, cremation is strongly discouraged.
There are no special provisions regarding disposal of amputated limbs or removed organs. Individual organs and amputated limbs may be cremated or buried.
Since Baha’is believe that the soul is present from conception, the embryo/fetus should be treated with respect regardless how young it is. The burial of embryos/fetuses should be left to the discretion of the parents whenever possible. It should not be incinerated if this can be prevented.
If Baha’is choose to leave their body to medical science, it must be treated with respect. Remains should not be cremated as this is against Baha’i teachings. As described in the End of Life section, the remains should not be buried more than one hour’s journey from the place of death. These specific requests must be communicated on the enrollment form.
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Bahá’ís of Botswana
Bahá’í communities are working together with their neighbours and friends to promote and contribute to the well-being and progress of society. In urban centres and rural villages, in homes and schools, citizens of all backgrounds, classes and ages are participating in a dynamic pattern of life, taking part in activities which are, at once, spiritual, social and educational.
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