Islamic Views on Artificial Nutrition and Hydration in Terminally Ill Patients

Bioethics 28 (2):96-99 (2014)

Abstract

Withholding and withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration from terminally ill patients poses many ethical challenges. The literature provides little information about the Islamic beliefs, attitudes, and laws related to these challenges. Artificial nutrition and hydration may be futile and reduce quality of life. They can also harm the terminally ill patient because of complications such as aspiration pneumonia, dyspnea, nausea, diarrhea, and hypervolemia. From the perspective of Islam, rules governing the care of terminally ill patients are derived from the principle that injury and harm should be prevented or avoided. The hastening of death by the withdrawal of food and drink is forbidden, but Islamic law permits the withdrawal of futile, death-delaying treatment, including life support. Nutritional support is considered basic care and not medical treatment, and there is an obligation to provide nutrition and hydration for the dying person unless it shortens life, causes more harm than benefit, or is contrary to an advance directive that is consistent with Islamic law. The decision about withholding or withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration from the terminally ill Muslim patient is made with informed consent, considering the clinical context of minimizing harm to the patient, with input from the patient, family members, health care providers, and religious scholars

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