Mercy killing: No killing can be merciful

Q385 :What is your view about euthanasia, or mercy killing? Those who support it say that "modern medical technology can prolong a patient's life only artificially." They also argue that people should have the right to die with dignity and that they should not be made to suffer unbearable pain. Please comment.

A385 : The termination of human life is caused by Allah. He alone determines when a person should die. He also determines the cause of his or her death. When people interfere with that process which Allah has determined, they actually kill. It is interesting to note that euthanasia is defined as "mercy killing." That definition acknowledges that it is a killing, and all killing is forbidden in Islam, except as punishment for certain well defined crimes. A person who has not committed any of these crimes should not be killed under any circumstances. Even if he makes it clear that he wishes to die, and even if his wish is the result of suffering a long, incurable illness, terminating his life is forbidden. The reason is that whoever puts him to death actually puts himself in the position of Allah, determining when that person should die. This is an assault on Allah's authority. The arguments used in justifying euthanasia are far from convincing. People argue that modern medical technology can prolong a patient's life artificially. This calls into question the definition of life and how it is prolonged. If what is meant is that people are put on life-supporting machines, which means that they will die once the machine is switched off, then that is a very special case. What we have to ask here is whether the brain of such a person needing a life-supporting machine has ceased to function. If it has, then the life of that person has ended, even though his heart may continue to beat with the help of that machine. Here we are not speaking about euthanasia, but about the definition of life and whether it exists in such a person. There is no doubt that doctors should use every available means in order to preserve the life of a patient. The use of such life-supporting machines is highly beneficial, if it gives the doctors a breathing space to administer the treatment which ensures that the patient recovers. But when it is clear that the patient's brain has died, then there is no way to bring him back to life. If he is put on a life-supporting machine, there is simply no benefit in that. All that is happening is to cause the patient's heart to continue to beat without any hope of recovery. The patient has actually died except in name. The switching off of the machine does not in this case fall under "euthanasia." It is letting a natural course take its effect. The notions of the "right to die with dignity" and "sparing the patient unbearable pain" are not acceptable. There is no lack of dignity in a person being ill and needing treatment. If he cannot control his own body function, then he should be helped with these. To terminate his life for that reason is inhumane. To speak of euthanasia in this case is actually suggesting that people are unwilling to help those who are in need of medical and human care. It is a condemnation of modern society that it argues for "mercy killing" in their cases. There is no mercy in such a killing. If people want to be merciful, then they should take good care of such patients. On the other hand, most types of pain can be relieved with appropriate treatment. With the modern advances in medical care, the type of pain which used to be unbearable can easily be reduced or relieved. In case where it cannot be helped, the patient should be reminded of the fact that he will be rewarded for his pain. If he bears it with resignation and accepts what Allah has determined for him, then his reward will be the forgiveness of his sins. A believer will always be willing to accept such pain for the prize of earning forgiveness.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )