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Islamic Biomedical Ethics Principles and Application$
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Abdulaziz Sachedina

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195378504

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195378504.001.0001

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Death and Dying

Death and Dying

(p.145) 6 Death and Dying
Islamic Biomedical Ethics Principles and Application

Abdulaziz Sachedina (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter takes up issues related to end of life decisions in Islam: Who makes them? This is the most innovative chapter in the sense that it takes up the neglected definition of death from Islamic juridical and ethical perspectives. For Muslims the definition of death cannot be derived from medical facts or scientific investigation alone. Physicians can only provide an account of empirically observed physiological states but cannot, on those terms alone, address religious-ethical and legal questions about the onset of death. Hence, the most critical issues in the determination of the time of death are essentially religious and ethical, not medical or scientific. In the community of the faithful, death occurs upon the separation of the soul from the body. This separation is not open to direct empirical observation, and this is the major source of ambiguity in determining the exact moment of death. The traditional view of death, which focused upon the cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions as the criteria of departed spirit, has been overshadowed by the ability of the new medical technologies to intervene by artificially sustaining a patient‘s normal heartbeat, blood pressure, respiration, and liver and kidney functions. This possibility of restoring cardiovascular functioning even in the case of massive brain damage, when there is little likelihood of an individual recovering consciousness, has given rise to the problem of defining cerebral death.

Keywords:   death, soul, spirit, stable-unstable life, brain death, pain relief, euthanasia

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