Q: What is the Islamic ruling on euthanasia?
A: The definition of euthanasia is: a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering. There are two types of euthanasia: Passive and Active
Passive euthanasia is the withholding of common treatments (such as antibiotics, drugs, or surgery) or giving a medication (such as morphine) to relieve pain, knowing that it may also result in death.
Withholding artificial life support, such as breathing, feeding tubes, respirators, or other life-sustaining machinery is also referred to as passive euthanasia or non-aggressive euthanasia. This is often termed the ‘right to die.’
Another common form of passive euthanasia is to give the patient large doses of morphine to control pain, which usually suppress respiration and causes the patient to die much earlier. These procedures are performed on terminally ill, so that natural death will occur sooner.
In Islam all forms of euthanasia are Haraam and forbidden because this procedure is designed to bring the life of a human being to an end. In the case of active euthanasia, as well as the passive form where large doses of morphine are ministered to the patient, such actions are akin to murder. Whereas in other forms of this procedure the sin will not be equal to murder, there is however, sin incurred because of the intentional termination of a sacred life. It is still, therefore, a major sin. The prohibition will apply even if the patient requested such a procedure.
As for the removal of life-supporting apparatus, this will be permitted on condition that doctors believe these systems will serve no purpose other than to keep the heart or respiratory system functioning. If there is unanimity among the doctors on this matter, then the patient’s family may ask for these systems to be disconnected. This will not be sinful, for at the end death will come at its appointed time. Nothing can expedite death, nor prolong it.
Mufti Siraj Desai
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