Roswell Gilbert's wife was seventy-three and suffering from Alzheimer's disease, One day Mr. Gilbert ended his wife's life by firing two nine-millimeter bullets through her brain. Now seventy-five-year-old Gilbert has a new problem. A Florida jury gave him a one-way ticket to the state penitentiary. He'll be eligible for parole after his one-hundredth birthday.
Some people are outraged that Gilbert was sentenced. They claim that he simply abbreviated his wife's suffering. Why should he not go free and thus further reduce the suffering in the world? Others, however, worry about the potential abuse of mercy killings for motives of selfishness or convenience.
What are the Vedic answers to the questions posed by euthanasia? Why was Mrs. Gilbert suffering in the first place? Did death end her suffering? What is the just reward or punishment for Mr. Gilbert's deed? How can suffering be avoided or stopped?
The real cause of suffering was described thousands of years ago by sages such as Maharaja Rsabhadeva and Sri Prabuddha. They explained that people who consider material enjoyment to be the goal of life perform all kinds of sins. Their desire is to enjoy, but ultimately they suffer.
People don't realize that their past sins have created their present suffering. They constantly endeavor to eliminate their unhappiness and to increase their pleasure, but due to ignorance they invariably obtain the opposite result. Their happiness vanishes, and as they grow older, their suffering increases.
Suffering is the just reaction to our past misdeeds. We know that when a person breaks the law, he is subject to punishment. So it is also when one breaks God's laws. Although it is sometimes possible to avoid the laws of man, no one can escape the laws of God.
Mrs. Gilbert was suffering from "bad karma" created by previous sins. Mr. Gilbert's intention was to end his wife's suffering, but instead he simply caused her suffering to be postponed until her next birth. Because of ignorance, the net result of Mr. Gilbert's action was an immediate increase in his own misery, with worse to come. Ignorance of the stringent laws of karma always results in suffering.
Intelligent persons should learn about karma and how to escape it through studying the science of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service to Krsna. Devotional service not only destroys the reactions due us because of our past sins, but it uproots the selfish, material desires that would ordinarily implicate us in future sufferings. This is the art of karma-free living and the eternal path of liberation from the bondage of suffering and repeated birth and death.