Books and Chapters

  • Braun, W. (2017). Jainism. In S. Sirojjakool, M. Carr, & E. Bursey (Eds.), World Religions for Healthcare Professionals (pp. 82-97). New York, New York: Routledge.   Religious beliefs and customs can significantly shape patients' and professionals' attitudes toward, and expectations of, healthcare, as well as their wishes and personal boundaries regarding such daily matters as dress, diet, prayer and touch. Undoubtedly, the sensitivity with which clinicians communicate with patients and make decisions regarding appropriate medical intervention can be greatly increased by an understanding of religious as well as other forms of cultural diversity. This second edition of a popular and established text offers healthcare students and professionals a clear and concise overview of health beliefs and practices in world religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism, Taoism, Sikhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Adopting a consistent structure, each chapter considers the demographic profile of the community, the religion’s historical development, and key beliefs and practices, including views regarding health and sickness, death, and dying. Each chapter also ends with a useful checklist of advice on what to do and what to avoid, along with recommendations for further reading, both online and in print form. The book’s clear and consistent style ensures that readers with little background knowledge can find the information they need and assimilate it easily. A brand new chapter on applications and a set of new case studies illustrating issues in clinical practice enhance this wide-ranging book’s value to students and practitioners alike. (01/2017 - 01/2016)
  • Braun, W. (2017). Sallekhana. In K. T. S. Sarao & J. D. Long (Eds.), Springer Encyclopedia of Indian Religions: Buddhism and Jainism. New York, New York: Springer. This volume focuses on Buddhism and Jainism, two religions which, together with Hinduism, constitute the three pillars of Indic religious tradition in its classical formulation. It explores their history and relates how the Vedic period in the history of Hinduism drew to a close around the sixth century BCE and how its gradual etiolation gave rise to a number of religious movements. While some of these remained within the fold of the Vedic traditions, others arose in a context of a more ambiguous relationship between the two. Two of these have survived to the present day as Buddhism and Jainism. The volume describes the major role Buddhism played in the history not only of India but of Asia, and now the world as well, and the more confined role of Jainism in India until relatively recent times. It examines the followers of these religions and their influence on the Indian religious landscape. In addition, it depicts the transformative effect on existing traditions of the encounter of Hinduism with these two religions, as well as the fertile interaction between the three. The book shows how Buddhism and Jainism share the basic concepts of karma, rebirth, and liberation with Hinduism while giving them their own hue, and how they differ from the Hindu tradition in their understanding of the role of the Vedas, the “caste system,” and ritualism in religious life. The volume contributes to the debate on whether the proper way of describing the relationship between the three major components of the classical Indic tradition is to treat them as siblings (sometimes as even exhibiting sibling rivalry), or as friends (sometimes even exhibiting schadenfreude), or as radical alternatives to one another, or all of these at different points in time. (01/2017 - 01/2016)
  • Braun, W. (2015). Sallekhana¯: The Philosophy, Ethics and Culture of the Jain End of Life Ritual. (Ph.D.), Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California.    This dissertation examines the practice of Sallekhana¯, also known as Santha¯ra¯ and Sama¯dhimaran?a, the ancient Jain religious ritual of fasting to death.  In the Jain view, it is observing the supreme vow of non-violence (Ahimsa) by abstaining from food or drink to the point of death. While fasting to death is traditionally held as a form of suicide in the Abrahamic traditions and by extension as a crime by most legal systems influenced by Judeo-Christian thinking, in the Jain philosophical tradition Sallekhana¯ is seen as the ideal death and the ritual has been protected and honored for at least the last three thousand years by the faithful of South Asia and for the last century by the Indian constitution’s guaranteed freedom of religion.  While little has been written about Sallekhana¯ in English, this work examines the ritual from a historical perspective and then explores the nuances of the practice in relation to the philosophy that underlies the ritual.  These findings are followed by a contextualization of the practice in the form of several case studies of individuals who have met their deaths via Sallekhana¯.  The historical perspective and personal stories of Sallekhana¯ are then punctuated by an account of the 2006 Rajasthani High Court Case in which, for the first time in Indian history, the ritual of Sallekhana¯ was challenged as a violation of the Indian constitution’s prohibition of suicide; prosecutors furthermore claimed that Sallekhana¯ was a coercive social evil that unfairly targeted women.  This legal challenge in India, coupled with several prominent end-of-life legal cases in the United States, has caused members of the Jain diaspora in the United States to fear that their own desires to take the vow of Sallekhana¯ will be challenged and possibly denied.  Thus, this dissertation will chronicle the first documented case of Sallekhana¯ in the United States by telling the story of Bhagwati Gada, an Indian-born Jain woman and medical doctor in Lubbock, Texas who died in 2013.  Ultimately this work will argue that in light of the Jain philosophical beliefs underlying the act, the moral presumption should be that Sallekhana¯ is a valid religious ritual and should therefore be legally protected, but only if the ritual is undertaken by an informed person and there is no coercion.  (09/2008 - 12/2015)

Online Publications

  • The History of Assisted Reproductive Technology in Under 1000 Words...   This article gives a brief historical overview of the history of assisted reproductive technology. (03/2016) (link)
  • Heterologous Embryo Transfer (HET): A New Frontier in Parenting. (01/2016) (link)
  • A Baby, a Baboon Heart, and the Transplant Heard Round the World: The Story of the First Neonatal Cardiac Xenotransplant in History. (01/2016) (link)
  • Dr. William Beaumont: The Accidental Father of Gastroenterology. (01/2016) (link)
  • A Doctor, a Quaker Woman and a Galvanized Rubber Syringe: The 19th Century Origins of Artificial Insemination in America. (01/2015) (link)
  • Thalidomide: The Connection Between a Statue in Trafalgar Square, a 1960s Children’s Show Host and the Abortion Debate. (01/2015) (link)

Scholarly Journals--Published

  • Braun, W. (2008). Sallekhana: the ethicality and legality of religious suicide by starvation in the Jain religious community. International Journal of Medicine and Law, 27(4), 913-924.  This article examines the legal and clinical ethics considerations of the end of life ritual known as Sallekahana. (01/2008)