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Islam and Human Rights ( 25 Aug 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Legalised Voluntary Euthanasia: Nothing in the Quran to deny such an equitable, just and compassionate moral procedure undertaken by the State


By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam


26 Aug 2012



 “A British man (Tony Nicholson, 58) left fully paralysed but conscious and aware of his predicament has died days after losing a legal bid to end his life of "pure torture"”.

His appeal was rejected unanimously by the High court, ruling that–‘it would be wrong to depart from a precedent that equates voluntary euthanasia with murder’ and that--‘it was for parliament, not the courts, to decide whether it should be changed’. (My emphases in italics). Lucky for him, he died of natural causes soon after the ruling, and was spared further torture of living a painful ‘life’.


Two important issues stem from the above tragic case; one of human suffering and the other of the legal position of the Courts vis a vis the Parliament as the peoples representative in such weighty issues, to enact laws for them.


Not being a person of legal qualification or even remotely connected with that discipline of medical knowledge, no opinion is given here on the matter at hand on these aspects.


On the issue of “suffering” and “compassion” though, the ethics of at least reducing to the minimum, any kind of human suffering; one believes is ‘doing good for goodness sake’. In this world it is the essential guiding principle for all, including religions and philosophies of human thought-processes. This has been so throughout the ages for as a sage had said:-

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,

but by the moments that take our breath away.


The Urdu poet Haali had expressed this thought of compassion precisely:-

دردِ  دل  کے  واسطے  پيدا  کيا  انسان  کو

ورنہ طاعت کے لۓ کچھ کم نہ تھے کرْوبياں!

Sharing fellow-feeling was the purpose for the Human creation,

Else, there was no shortage of cherubims for (His) obedience!


Hence in the civilised world the ‘State’ has the responsibility of assuring that this necessity of maintaining dignity and eradicating sufferings of its subject is its divine duty. The court therefore expressed the opinion that, it is up to the government to enact such laws that reflect the consensus of general public. Obviously this must be based on fair, just and ‘compassionate’ grounds.


The general, consensus can only be established if an open and unrestricted discussion takes place in the public domain. When all aspects, moral and ethical norms are put on the table for the lay person and a sincere effort is made by all concerned to explain the pros and cons of the issue. That is when the public can give its considered opinion. No institution and individual should be allowed to push its own barrow of morality and dogma in an enlightened society.


This enlightenment is severely curtailed in religious communities, particularly so in the general religious Muslim community which shies away from even discussing such issues connected with death, of which Quran reminds us more often than anything else. They “withhold their hands from doing good 9-67”.


Let alone voluntary Euthanasia! ‘God giveth life and God taketh life’ is understood to be the sole prerogative of the Creator sitting somewhere on His throne ordering children to be born in this world willy-nilly, without any part played by His Human creation, that of man and woman in the process of bringing a human life in this world (ref 36-36 etc of Quran).

Here it is worth noting that the State too has its responsibility, in that it registers the marriage and issues a certificate to accord a legal legitimacy to the new born life from that union, and then a Birth certificate to that effect too.


Also in many countries the State has the right to take a ‘life for a life’ or instead to deprive freedom and dignity for a stated period of time, and sometimes for entire ‘Life’, thus robbing the Dignity of the guilty, as decreed by its Justice system. It even issues a certificate to that end. This punishment meted out is in compliance of its duty to maintain equilibrium and harmony in the society in general for its good.


In many civilised countries, the State makes it its duty to provide health services for its citizens, out of its revenue, and thus, making a link between minimising its citizen’s physical suffering and its duty to preserve dignity and life.


Hence the State does play a large part from the beginning to the end of life.


It is therefore argued that when this equilibrium is disturbed by the physical suffering of an individual; suffering not only of the individual but also of the carers, dependents and the family as a whole, has profound effect on the society too, and therefore by extension of the argument, it is up to the State to step in and redress that equilibrium and harmony. The State of Origan in US has just done that and the medical literature looks at this as a success story; one is informed.


On this basis it is argued also that it is essential to set up a board of experts in all fields of human activity to assist the Courts to make a correct judgement and absolve the Medical fraternity of the heavy load of covertly acting to ‘do good for goodness sake’. A thankless job! This is an unreasonable burden on just one institution out of many to carry such a burden, put on it the by society which observes the doctors’ plight at a-distance. This must be changed. The responsibility must be shared by the society as a whole and absolve doctors of any guilt. This may also put a curb on so called ‘medical mal-practices’ which in some cases are murders, particularly perpetrated in backward countries for monetary gains!

For a layperson it seems the answer is that the State must setup a permanent Board; composed of people with expertise, to consider the application for voluntary euthanasia by the mentally sound person in a dire situation of suffering. A board comprising of:-


-       A presiding High Court Judge.

-       Legal expert(s)

-       Accountant(s)

-       Medical experts

-       Immediate Member of Family of the appellant and,

-       The applicant if capable to attend the hearing of the application.



For the Muslim community there is nothing one can find in the Quran to deny such an equitable, just and compassionate moral procedure undertaken by the State within its legal duties فَرِيْضَۃَمِنَاللہ  on behalf of all, as a gift of service عَدلْ بِل الْحسَانْ.


There are various other practical factors involved in such issues such as Health facilities, family finances and State resources etcetera; which are beyond the scope here……But since, Life is sacrosanct it must be kept with dignity for the living and that must be the sole criterion --for it to be taken away except for truth الَا بِلْحَقِ17-33


A regular contributor to New Age Islam, Rashid Samnakay is an Indian-origin Engineer (Retd.) based in Australia for over forty years.