Brain Death in Islamic Ethico-Legal Deliberation: Challenges for Applied Islamic Bioethics

8 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2012

See all articles by Ebrahim Moosa

Ebrahim Moosa

Duke University - Department of Religion

Ahsan Arozullah

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Aasim I. Padela

University of Chicago - Section of Emergency Medicine

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Date Written: December 13, 2011

Abstract

Since the 1980s, Islamic scholars and medical experts have used the tools of Islamic law to formulate ethico-legal opinions on brain death. These assessments have varied in their determinations and remain controversial. Some juridical councils such as the Organization of Islamic Conferences’ Islamic Fiqh Academy (OIC-IFA) equate brain death with cardiopulmonary death, while others such as the Islamic Organization of Medical Sciences (IOMS) analogize brain death to an intermediate state between life and death. Still other councils have repudiated the notion entirely. Similarly, the ethico-legal assessments are not uniform in their acceptance of brain-stem or whole-brain criteria for death, and consequently their conceptualizations of, brain death.

Within the medical literature, and in the statements of Muslim medical professional societies, brain death has been viewed as sanctioned by Islamic law with experts citing the aforementioned rulings. Furthermore, health policies around organ transplantation and end-of-life care within the Muslim world have been crafted with consideration of these representative religious determinations made by transnational, legally-inclusive, and multidisciplinary councils.

The determinations of these councils also have bearing upon Muslim clinicians and patients who encounter the challenges of brain death at the bedside. For those searching for ‘Islamically-sanctioned’ responses that can inform their practice, both the OIC-IFA and IOMS verdicts have palpable gaps in their assessments and remain clinically ambiguous. In this paper we analyze these verdicts from the perspective of applied Islamic bioethics and raise several questions that, if answered by future juridical councils, will better meet the needs of clinicians and bioethicists.

Keywords: Islamic law, Muslim bioethics, Islamic ethics, Islamic bioethics, fiqh, shari`a, sharia, brain death, neuroethics, neuroscience

Suggested Citation

Moosa, Ebrahim and Arozullah, Ahsan and Padela, Aasim I., Brain Death in Islamic Ethico-Legal Deliberation: Challenges for Applied Islamic Bioethics (December 13, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2125190 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2125190

Ebrahim Moosa (Contact Author)

Duke University - Department of Religion ( email )

Box 90964
Durham, NC NC 27708-0204
United States
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9196603530 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://religiondepartment.duke.edu/people?Gurl=%2Faas%2FReligion&Uil=moosa&subpage=profile

Ahsan Arozullah

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Aasim I. Padela

University of Chicago - Section of Emergency Medicine

Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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