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Is Euthanasia Permissible?

Shaykh Jamir Meah answers a question related to Euthanasia and its ruling in Islamic law.

Question:

My question is regarding the medically assisted death option which patients in hospitals are choosing. I’m completing a clinical pastoral education unit in a hospital and was recently asked if I would assist patients who have chosen medically assisted death and without any confusion or hesitation I said yes. However, I’m wondering if as a Muslim that is problematic or not. I don’t think so but I just need to speak to someone who is in the field and is a Muslim to provide some kind of comments, feedback or advise. Please let me know your thoughts.

Thank you

Answer:

Assalam ‘alaykum, thank you for your question.

Euthanasia is of two types, active and passive. Active euthanasia is deliberately performing an act that will cause the person to die, such as administering a fatal injection. Passive euthanasia entails leaving a person to die without any action being taken to preserve life.

Active Euthanasia, Suicide, and Assisted Suicide

Active Euthanasia, the direct and deliberate act performed to kill the patient maybe involuntary, such as when the patient is unconscious and the decision to end their lives is taken by the family or physician, or voluntary, in which case it is termed suicide, or assisted suicide if a third party assists the person in the act.

Active Euthanasia, suicide, and assisted suicide, are unlawful in Islamic Law, even if the person is suffering.

This is based on the words of God, ‘And take not life, which Allah has made sacred, except by way of justice and law’[6: 151], and, ‘Do not kill yourselves. Verily, Allah is ever Merciful unto you’. [4:29].

Alongside the prohibition, the person who deliberately caused death would have committed homicide.

Vegetable States

The ‘exception’ to the prohibition on involuntary euthanasia is when the patient is in a severe vegetable state, such that the medication, feeding (i.e. hydration), or life support machine, is the only thing keeping the person breathing, and without it, it has been concluded that the person would be dead or will not function. In these cases, it would be permissible to stop treatment if qualified physicians state that this is the case and there is no hope of recovery.

Passive Euthanasia

Passive euthanasia, where no action is taken, entails stopping medical treatment. The vast majority of scholars have held that it is recommended for a person to seek medical treatment but it is not obligatory. Therefore, if a person chooses to stop treatment, and they are left to die naturally, then this would be permissible. However, it would not be permitted to starve the person to death (or self-starvation). And Allah knows best.

Do Not Desire Death

It is disliked for a person to desire death, as the Prophet ﷺ said, ‘Let none of you wish for death on account of an affliction that befalls him. If he has no alternative, let him pray, O Allah! Give my life so long as the life is good for me, and take away my life if death is good for me.’ [Al Bukhari and Muslim]

Role of the Muslim physician

The Muslim physician holds a very important yet precarious role. It is essential that any person wishing to treat or care for patients first learn the rulings of sacred law (fiqh) that apply to their job, as well as study some central tenants of Islamic belief (‘aqida).

Though it can be very difficult, Muslim physicians should always encourage patients, Muslims and non-Muslim, to have hope in something greater than their suffering, for hope is often far greater a cure than any medicine can afford.

[al Majmu’, Tuhfatul Muhtaj, Mughni al Muhtaj, Tarshih al Mustarshidin]

 

Please also refer to the following answer:

I wish you all the best in your affairs.

Warmest salams,

Jamir

 

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabanni


 

Extending Life Support When No Recovery is Expected

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: What would be the Islamic position on terminating life support when someone enters into a ‘”vegetative state?” Can Muslims state, in their will, their desire not to be kept alive by machines?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful.

Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

It is permitted to stop medication, because it is established from the Sunna of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) that it is a recommended sunna, but not obligatory, to undertake medical treatment. This is the position of the overwhelming majority of Islamic scholarship.

The issue remains whether it is permitted to stop feeding, because it is not generally permitted to stop eating and drinking, whether directly or through a guardian or caretaker’s decision.

In cases where a patient is in a ‘vegetative’ state, such that no human function is likely to return to them even in the future according to expert medical opinion, this feeding is considered akin to medication and the decision to continue it or cease it returns to the individual or their guardian or caretaker.

Some of the Fiqh of This Case

In general, the ruling of medical treatment itself is that it is a sunna, for the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) told us, “Allah has created a cure for every disease He has created.” [Related by Bukhari and Muslim] It is not obligatory, however, because of the many narrations from the first generations in which they chose to forgo available medical treatment that was likely to benefit. This is related from some of the leading Companions (Allah be pleased with them all), including Ibn Mas`ud and Abu al-Darda’, and the righteous Caliph Umar Ibn Abd al-Aziz [Ibn al-Hajj, al-Madkhal, 4.115-116].

This is the position of the Hanafi school, and also of the majority of Islamic scholarship [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; Nawawi, al-Majmu`; Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni]. Iraqi said in Tarh al-Tathrib that it is the position of the vast majority of the early Muslims (salaf) and the generality of the later Muslims (khalaf) [Iraqi, Tarh al-Tathrib, 8.181].

Some scholars, however, considered leaving medical treatment better because they deemed it closer to reliance on Allah–this is a strong position in the Hanbali school, though some notable Hanbali ulema such as Abu Ya`la and Ibn al-Jawzi disagreed [Buhuti, Kashshaf al-Qina`, 2.76]. Other scholars held that when the treatment is of reasonably sure healing or cure, then it is either a very strong sunna or even obligatory to pursue such treatment.

Living Will To Leave Treatment

It is permitted to make a living will in which one expresses the desire not to be kept alive by machines or through medication. However, it would not be permitted to request that one not be given food or drink in situations when there is medical hope of recovery.

Euthanasia

Active euthanasia, in which means are taken to end the life of the patient, is prohibited and a major sin, because of the words of Allah Most High,

“Say: Come, I will recite unto you that which your Lord has made a sacred duty for you: That you ascribe no thing as partner unto Him and that you do good to parents, and that you slay not your children because of penury – We provide for you and for them – and that you draw not nigh to lewd things whether open or concealed. And that you slay not the life which Allah has made sacred, save in the course of justice. This He has command you, in order that you may discern.” [Qur’an, 6.151]

Suicide Is Not An Option

Likewise, suicide is also prohibited and a major sin, even in situations of grave physical or emotional hardship, because of numerous texts of the Qur’an (like the above verse) and the Sunna.

Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (909-974 AH) wrote in his al-Zawajir `an Iqtiraf al-Kaba’ir, which lists and explains the major sins (kaba’ir),

“The 314th Major Sin: Killing oneself. Allah Most High said, ‘Do not kill yourselves. Verily, Allah is ever Merciful unto you. Whoever does that through aggression and wrongdoing, We shall cast them into Fire, and that is ever easy for Allah’ [Qur’an, 4: 29-30].” [Haytami, al-Zawajir `an Iqtiraf al-Kaba’ir]

May Allah give life to our hearts, minds, and souls, through true love for Him and His Beloved Messenger, our master Muhammad (Allah bless him & give him peace).

Wassalam,
Faraz Rabbani