Pulling the Plug: The Islamic Perspectives on End-of-Life Care
Life, Death, and Illness in an Islamic Spiritual Framework
Islamic Law and Medicine
A bedouin asked the Prophet Muhammad: ‘Should we not treat sickness?’ He replied: ‘Treat sickness, for God has not created any disease except that He has also created its cure, except for one disease.’ Those around the Prophet asked, ‘O Messenger of God, what is [that one disease]?’ He said: ‘Aging.’ 6
- cases in which refraining from medical treatment will lead to significant harm to the patient and/or one of his/her organs, as determined by the physician in consultation with the patient. In the case of an emergency situation that meets this criterion, the consent of the patient or his/her proxy is not needed for treatment. Consent is necessary in non-emergent cases;
- cases in which refraining from medical treatment will lead to long-term handicap;
- cases in which the patient’s disease may be transmitted to others and result in significant harm to them and/or to society, as determined by the physician.
It is permissible to turn off the life support systems of a patient whose brain has completely stopped functioning on condition that a committee of three specialized expert doctors decides that the cessation is final and irrecoverable. Such permissibility is valid even if the heart and respiratory systems are still functioning mechanically due to the life support systems. However, the legal judgment of death is not declared until it is assured that the heart and respirations have fully stopped after turning off all the life support systems.19
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11 Islamic Fiqh Assembly of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Decision Number: 67(7/5). Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: May 9th-14th, 1992.
12 Islamic Fiqh Assembly of the Muslim World League. Decision Number: 10(2). Makkah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Oct 17th-21st, 1987.
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16 Al-Haj, Hatem. The Impact of Medical Advancements on Religious Edicts and Judgeship. [dissertation, Arabic]. Tripoli, Lebanon: al-Jinan University; 2008. p.103.
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18 American Academy of Neurology Guidelines for Brain Death Determination. University of Miami Health System: Miller School of Medicine. Available: http://surgery.med.miami.edu/laora/clinical-operations/brain-death-diagnosis. Accessed August 22, 2017.
19 Islamic Fiqh Assembly of the Muslim World League. Decision Number: 10/2. Makkah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Oct 17th-21st, 1987.
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