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On Being Human: Where Ethics, Medicine, and Spirituality Converge
with René Simard and Guy Bourgeault

On Being Human
Pub. Year



Middleway Press



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.

On Being Human is also available in Japanese, French, Italian, Chinese (traditional version) and Portuguese.



Chapter One
Cancer and AIDS
  1. Cancer Past and Present
  2. Prevention and Treatment
  3. Cancer and Disclosure: The Doctor-Patient Bond
  4. AIDS – Menace and Countermeasures
  5. AIDS and Human Rights
  6. Cloning and the Value of Life

Chapter Two
Health and Harmony
  1. The Nature of Health
  2. Health and Illness
  3. Harmony with the Environment
  4. Obsession with Perpetual Youth
  5. Overcoming Stress
  6. Coping with Mental Illness
  7. The Ideal Life

Chapter Three
  1. Religion and Medical Ethics
  2. Definition of Death
  3. Brain Death
  4. Death with Dignity: Overcoming the Suffering of Death
  5. Confronting Death
  6. Birth
  7. Reproductive Technology

Chapter Four
Evolution of Life and Birth of Humanity
  1. Origin of Life
  2. Theories of Biological Evolution
  3. Birth of Humankind
  4. Diverse Views

Chapter Five
Dawn of the Century of Life
  1. Pathology of our Time
  2. Goals of Education
  3. The Mission of the University
  4. Ethical Aspects of Technoscientific Development
  5. Century of Life



On November 1, 2001, Daisaku Ikeda was awarded a certificate of commendation as well as certificate of appreciation from the University of Montreal Press and from Canada’s National Association of Book Editors for his contribution to the French edition of On Being Human (Pour un nouvel art de vivre—Entretiens sur la vie, la santé l’ éthique biomédicale et l’ éducation).

On June 3, 2004, On Being Human won silver place in the Health category of ForeWord Magazine’s 2003 Book of the Year Awards. A literary review trade journal covering the independent publishing industry in the United States, ForeWord Magazine sponsors the annual competition to focus attention on notable books. For its 2003 Book of the Year Awards, a panel of judges comprised of industry professionals—including literary critics, librarians and book distributors—reviewed some 1,000 works, with awards handed out in 47 categories.


"Like a good novel, this trialogue focuses on the human condition through life's triumphs and despairs. With clarity of spirit, knowledge and experience our three story tellers invite a new exploration on the issues of health, disease, death and our own philosophy on living. As a pastoral care giver who deals with people's search for meaning and their spiritual suffering, I find that On Being Human shines a new light on an ageless subject."
—Rabbi Tamara Miller, Director Pastoral Care, George Washington University Hospital

"This writing is very ambitious and tackles a broad range of topics. The scholarship is outstanding. The writers organize their material around topics which are highly pertinent and for the most part worthy of examining from historic perspectives to application in the 21st century."
—O. Ray Fizgerald, PH.D, International Consultant on Family Systems, Bioethics and Spirituality

"From the very basic quest for the meaning of life to the consciousness of it; from how to live to how to be; from birth to eternity—the dialogue and discussion never ceased to enlighten. I finished the book assured and hopeful—not only that we're uniquely human; we're also uniquely individual. Life is awesome and we're worthy of respect."
—Lillian Chan, editor of Wellness Options magazine and author of The Wellness Options Guide to Health, published by Penguin Book Canada

"On Being Human is an elegant and timely dialogue. Accessible yet profound, it illustrates the convergence of medical science, bioethics and Buddhist philosophy. Informative and hopeful, it offers wise perspectives on life and death, revealing their deeper meaning and higher purpose. Its three sagacious voices speak as one, to all."
—Lou Marinoff, author of Plato not Prozac and The Big Questions

"A cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary dialogue, this book shows what is possible when bioethics leaves its disciplinary boundaries behind and becomes instead a reflection on life and death."
—Stephen E. Lammers, Helen HP Manson Professor of the English Bible, Dept. of Religion, Lafayette College, Easton, Pa.

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