On the 10th January 2015, The Al-Mahdi Institute held an ‘Islam and Medical Ethics’ discussion group invitingMedical practitioners and students/scholars of religion with interest in the intersection between Islam and biomedical ethics, to discuss “Euthanasia and end of life decisions.” With an overwhelming amount of interest from medics of all fields prior to the conference, an impressive turnout of over 60 people including AMI students and faculty attended.
The format of the presentation allowed for individual presentations by AMI’s Shaykh Arif Abdulhussain and Professor Abdulaziz Sachedina, Professor of Islamic Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, followed by an interactive discussion with the speakers and audience facilitated by Shahid Merali.
In his presentation, Shaykh Arif Abdulhussain talked about the four types of souls according to a hadith by Imam Ali (as) which are; vegetative, animal, rational-non human and godly-non human. He also explained how Death is a re-birth according to our theological literature and the completion of soul, therefore, hastening death is like taking a premature birth. Hence why the birth in the next world would be deformed. He described pain as positive for the refinement of the soul and that suffering is a psychological and relative state, which is good for human growth and understanding. Shaykh Arif also used hadith to explain how a Painful death is like bitter medicine which provides relief for the soul, thus, he who takes his own life because of unbearable pain will end up with more unbearable pain. He ended on a notion that, as long as a subject has active rationality and that they are able to sustain life naturally or with minimal assistance; life is to be sustained.
On the other hand, Professor Abdulaziz Sachedina spoke about the Ethical and Legal dimensions regarding end of life decisions. He mentioned that there are two methods at work; a) Method of Casuistry in Islamic Bioethics; which involves searching for a precedent in the juristic practice that defines quality of life and may allow medical team to relieve a terminally ill patient from prolonged suffering and b) Method of General Principles; which is the application of Islamic bioethical principles like “No harm, no harassment” to allow discontinuation of treatment when there is definitely no hope for cure. He also shed light on the derivation of a Juridical Decision (hukm or fatwa) and the derivation of Ethical Decisions (Practical Reasoning).