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When someone dies (is pronounced dead, e.g. no heart-beat) then hospital staff will want to move the body to a refrigerated morgue.

If you are next-of-kin, then when (after how long) is it right to give them permission to do that? Is it alright to do that nearly immediately, or, should you ask them to delay doing that, and if so for how long?

This reference says,

Different Buddhist cultures (Western, Tibetan, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Sri Lankan etc. have different lengths of time that they don't move the body and keep vigil and do prayers).

How long is an appropriate length of time to ask for, for example in a Western hospital or hospice?

How much time/delay, if any, does the dying person need?

Should you wait for a certain length of time (number of hours after the recorded time of death)? Or wait for some specific, measurable/observable physical symptom, for example the (internal body and/or external skin) temperature cooling to some specific temperature?

The same page says,

The Clear Light State can last for few minutes (where there is much disease or in accidents) or 3 days (recommended waiting time) or longer in accomplished meditators.

I imagine that leaving the body undisturbed for three days might be unacceptable in a Western hospital.


The conclusion to Buddhism and organ donation suggests that organ donation is compatible with Buddhism. If that's true, how is that compatible/reconciled with the view that the body should not be disturbed/touched after death?

  • 1
    Reverend Kusula addressed Buddhist patient health care in one of his podcasts. He talks about leaving the body undisturbed for a certain period of time so that the spirit can move on. I don't remember all the details but it may be useful. The date of the podcast was 11-2005 (the second one). – Parag Dec 15 '14 at 20:46
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    Thank you for the reference. He says various things in that podcast; the part of that podcast which describes the body (i.e. which is an answer to this specific question) is his reading from a publication titled "Buddhist Beliefs and Practices Affecting Health Care - Chaplaincy Services" which is published on this page: i.e. "Traditionally, the body is taken to the home and for a period of 3 days or so etc." – ChrisW Dec 15 '14 at 22:53
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    A Buddhist Guide to Death, Dying and Suffering links to dozens of articles etc. topics related to death and dying (the Reverend Kusula is or was a UCLA Medical Center chaplain). – ChrisW Dec 15 '14 at 23:01
  • Thank you for pointing to an easy-to-reference location. – Parag Dec 16 '14 at 7:56
  • Thank you Chris for creating a new question to the organ donation question. I found this very useful:) – Lanka Dec 19 '14 at 20:02
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The site urbandharma.org mentions that the body should be kept for about 3 days.

Immediately following signs of physical death, Buddhists believe that it is best to keep the body in a peaceful state. Traditionally, the body is taken to the home and for a period of 3 days or so, the body is not touched and extensive prayers are said. This facilitates the process of the person’s consciousness letting go of its prior body and life and all of its attachments and more easily moving to the next.

http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma8/health.html

The exact number of days may vary from tradition to tradition.

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There are many stories where someone wakes up after being declared dead:

At least in Sri Lanka there is no notion or any specific time before one should be send to the morgue. There always a change when some one is pronounced dead is not actually dead but declared so as an error. Best is to wait a enough to ensure that some one pronounced dead is in fact actually dead.

  • Re. your last sentence, here are some guidelines about how/when to recognize/pronounce someone's death: Death (Recognition and Certification). According to this, "waiting enough time" means waiting for 5 minutes. – ChrisW Dec 6 '14 at 14:09
  • There are some further details on the UK system in this document, which imply that it some other countries (e.g. the USA) they might wait as little as 65 seconds, whereas in other countries (e.g. in Japan) they might wait forever (using artificial life support after brain death). – ChrisW Dec 6 '14 at 14:11
  • See also Brainstem Death and Organ Donation by L.D.Walallawita in the Sri Lankan Journal of Anaesthesiology (2009), which describes how to test when the patient dies during "intensive care". – ChrisW Dec 15 '14 at 13:45

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