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Fatwas support removal of life support for the brain dead: Expert
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 17 - 10 - 2010

JEDDAH: A leading medical expert says there are several Fatwas supporting the removal of life support systems from people who are brain dead.
Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Bar, an expert in jurisprudence, member of the Higher Committee for Diagnosing the Brain Dead, and Director of the Medicine Ethics Center, said all jurisprudential “Fatwas” (religious edicts) permit the removal of these devices if a person is brain dead.
His comments come in the wake of controversy over the issue. Those opposing the removal of such devices and calling it murder, include Dr. Talal Taha, Director General of Forensic Administration in the Kingdom. Taha argued recently that the removal of life support systems, unless the heart and respiratory system also stops working, is a medical violation punishable under the Shariah. The doctor and medical staff who remove these devices should be treated like those who have committed an intentional homicide, argued Taha.
Al-Bar said medical centers in the Kingdom are Shariah-compliant and apply the rules and edicts derived from the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah.
He said there are several Fatwas which refute Taha's argument. Al-Bar said this defeats Taha's contention that that there are no Fatwas supporting the removal of life support from brain dead patients.
Al-Bar said Fatwa No. 6619, issued by the Permanent Committee for Religious Research and Ifta in the Kingdom on Nov. 20, 1983, supports his own view on the matter.
The edict says that if an encephalograph, which monitors brain activity, shows a flat signal, then this means the person is dead, even though the life-support system is keeping the person breathing and his heart beating.
Al-Bar says a test should also be conducted to make sure that the heart and lungs have stopped working when the device is removed.
Al-Bar also referred to resolution No (5) dated Oct. 16, 1986, adopted by the International Islamic Fiqh Academy during its 3rd session held in Amman, regarding resuscitation devices. The resolution was adopted by the academy after lengthy discussions and explanations by specialist doctors about what constitutes a brain dead person.
According to the doctors, a brain dead person is one whose heart has stopped beating on its own, there are no vital brain functions, and the brain has started decomposing. It is then permissible to remove the patient from the life support keeping the heart and lungs working.
Al-Bar emphasized that there are several other edicts derived from the Holy Qur'an and the Prophet's Sunnah which permit the removal of life support devices from brain dead patients.


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