Islamic perspectives on clinical intervention near the end-of-life: We can but must we?

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 20 (4):545-559 (2017)
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The ever-increasing technological advances of modern medicine have increased physicians’ capacity to carry out a wide array of clinical interventions near the end-of-life. These new procedures have resulted in new “types” of living where a patient’s cognitive functions are severely diminished although many physiological functions remain active. In this biomedical context, patients, surrogate decision-makers, and clinicians all struggle with decisions about what clinical interventions to pursue and when therapeutic intent should be replaced with palliative goals of care. For some patients and clinicians, religious teachings about the duty to seek medical care and the care of the dying offer ethical guidance when faced with such choices. Accordingly, this paper argues that traditional Sunni Islamic ethico-legal views on the obligation to seek medical care and Islamic theological concepts of human dignity and inviolability provide the ethical grounds for non-intervention at the end-of-life and can help calibrate goals of care discussions for Muslim patients. In closing the paper highlights the pressing need to develop a holistic ethics of healthcare of the dying from an Islamic perspective that brings together multiple genres of the Islamic intellectual tradition so that it can meet the needs of the patients, clinicians and Muslim religious leaders interacting with the healthcare system.



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