I wanted to ask you whether it is ethical for a person with schizophrenia to have biological children. Do any Buddhist traditions teach anything in that regard?

When one parent has this illness, the chance that kid would have it too is about 17%, as compared to 1% in general population.

The doctor says that it shouldn't prevent one from having children, as similar situation is for many diabetics, where there is also hereditary factor, and they decide to become parents. And some other illnesses have even greater factor than 17% and those people decide to have children, who are in many cases healthy.

Some may suggest that it's better in this situation not to have biological children, but to adopt. However, mental illnesses are one of the main reasons why adoption is impossible.

According to some statistics (I don't know how accurate) one person with schizophrenia in ten commits suicide; three or four in ten have at least one suicidal attempt. Nonetheless, the illness can be treated so that there is full remission, i.e. no symptoms whatsoever as long as one takes medicines. And we may expect even better understanding and treatments in the future.

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4 Answers 4


that's a loaded question with many factors to take into account. Priority in life for those with serious illness should be given to self to make sure they live a happy healthy life. If life is already difficult more than the norm, then having children will cause even more difficulties (if self is ill and having to take care of possible ill children). Since this a Buddhist Q and A website, I'm going to try to link that.
remember this

"whatever brings you joy, it will cause suffering"

It comes to personal choice, if he/she decides it is a fair trade off.
As for my personal thought. No, dont risk adding more troubles to an already troubled life.


Is it ethical for a schizophrenic to have children?

I am not a Buddhist, but I am a medical professional. Buddhism teaches "right view/understanding" (see things as they truly are without delusions or distortions). I would advise that you learn more about your schizophrenia. There are types that are more likely to be progressive than others, and while medications may control the symptoms, they cannot prevent progression. Know your illness without distortion before making the decision to bring into the world a perfectly normal child that you might not be able to care for or one who has the disorder. Either way, there will be joy and suffering.

"Right thinking" involves a dedication to overcoming self-centered craving through the development of loving kindness, empathy and compassion. Is it self-centered craving to want a child? I don't know; I think it was for me. Once they are grown, though, life is given more meaning through the above. No children necessary.

The decision to have children is always difficult for people who are self-aware. Which is worse to you, to suffer physically or to suffer mentally? To my thinking, I would choose physical suffering over mental suffering. Giving birth to a child who may develop a physical illness is different than one who might suffer mental illness. That should be considered.

If the risk is unacceptable, your wife can become pregnant via sperm donation, which would reduce the risk of schizophrenia, but carries other risks. It is unlikely, however, that a reputable sperm bank would accept sperm from someone with a serious mental illness.


People who develop schizophrenia in there life should not have society discriminate against them, and should not have to feel that if they may give birth to a daughter or a son that will have a similar condition they should not have to feel society would view them as making a bad personal choice.

Schizophrenia as well as other illnesses should be treated similarly. When schizophrenia can become a burden to "society" is when the recipient is not treated accordingly, if they are they can be come a valued member of that society and equally contribute to it as any other person less disabled than they are.

Society should recognise this part of the community to be as equally capable of and as productive as any other member within in it. I don't think they should be eugenically separated from it.


Do any Buddhist traditions teach anything in that regard?

I don't know, but I doubt it.

A lot of Buddhist law is monastic, with something of a line drawn between the sangha and lay society. There are ethical rules or guidelines for laypeople but (IMO) they tend to be brief or broad (e.g. the five precepts), rather than detailed.

I think there's no Buddhist law that regulates marriage, for example.

There may be cultural rules (but I'd suspect they're cultural or national rather than "Buddhist" and timeless).

If you want to pursue this question, the one thing I can suggest is this:

  • Look at this answer, which includes Buddhist advice on how to choose a marriage partner -- it summarises one chapter of this book, which is an anthology of advice for laypeople (taken from Pali suttas)
  • I think the next chapter of that book contains advice for parents ... but I haven't read it, and I no longer have the book. I recommend you get the book and read it, and see whether that chapter (of advice for parents) sounds like something you're able and willing to take on! Say if you want me to summarise it, like I did the other chapter (if so I'll try to buy or borrow the book again).

The doctor says that it shouldn't prevent one from having children ... in many cases healthy

If one responds well to doctors' treatment then I think they say that one can have a normal life, without disability.

And, yes, schizophrenia is not the only malady that can affect children and other people.

Given that children are vulnerable to one thing or another, perhaps this question isn't different from (or is just a special case of) a more general question, which is whether a Buddhist "should" have children at all -- so you might find that answers to some of these questions may help to answer yours:

Your questions seem to concentrate on whether the child will be healthy (or inherit an illness).

I think my first (and perhaps only) concern was whether the parent[s] will be healthy, but it's more your decision to make than mine.

mental illnesses are one of the main reasons why adoption is impossible

As an example of different possibility, my wife (and my mum too, for that matter) became teachers ... preschool teachers, actually, after a year or two or more of training.

If you take a job or a career like that, you could have 20 children a year (shared with colleagues). :-) And be good at it, and maybe sleep at night as well.

Of course you must be healthy (symptom-free) to do that, but it has advantages: no adoption red tape, less stress than children of your own, social ... and more short-term, e.g. if you're healthy this year then do it, without having to worry about whether things will still be good 10 years from now.

According to some statistics

I don't completely agree with your posting these statistics here.

Schizophrenia is a bit complicated, for example hard to diagnose properly, and varies a lot from person to person. So if you're asking a personal question (about someone in real life) then maybe you could get better (more specific, personalised) estimates than the non-specific statistics you posted.

For example you were trying to estimate a risk of suicide. I'm pretty sure that depends on whether there's comorbid depression and comorbid substance abuse and so on (see e.g. Psychiatric Comorbidities and Schizophrenia).

Things may also vary depending on how good and how available a person's doctors are, their family, friends, and society, and so on, as well as on their mental health.

As anongoodnurse wrote, I'd recommend you learn more. The "best case scenario" could be better than you expect (and the worst case scenario less good).

Nonetheless, the illness can be treated so that there is full remission, i.e. no symptoms whatsoever as long as one takes medicines.

I agree there's good reason to be optimistic if that's what your doctor is saying, but maybe don't be too complacent either. In particular you said, "no symptoms whatsoever as long as one takes medicines":

I agree there may be no symptom of mental illness, and that one may have a good reason to take medicine even if there are side-effects.

Nevertheless beware there may be important physical symptoms (side-effects) of the medicine, so do be careful (to consult the doctors because there is a variety of medicines) rather than heedless.

You might want a plan as well (possibly a family/medical/legal plan), for if ever there are symptoms of mental illness (sometimes a prescription ought to be varied, or sometimes one is "non-compliant" and stops taking medicine, and mental illness may affect the ability to make informed decisions).

Sorry this based more on personal experience than on references, so it may be too personal and not very useful to you. Maybe you'll at least find useful the references to other topics (about choosing a marriage partner and about Buddhists having children).

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