Legalizing Euthanasia: Islamic View On Euthanasia
This is the story of Chantal Sébire, formerly a French teacher who suffered an extremely rare and incredibly complex form of cancer, esthesioneuroblastoma that affects the inside lining of the nose. After being diagnosed, Chantal refused to undergo any treatment as she felt surgery and medications were risky. As the cancer progressed, it burrowed through sinuses, nasal cavities, and eye socket, leaving her face severely deformed. She lost her vision, sense of taste and smell and endured excruciating pain that she refused to relieve with morphine due to its side effects. She said “drugs are chemicals, chemicals are poison, and I won’t make matters worse by poisoning myself.” Sebire gained recognition when in early 2008 when she publicly made an appeal to the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to permit her to end her life through euthanasia. Her request was denied by the French court. In response to the decision, Chantal said “I now know how to get my hands on what I need, and if I don’t get it in France, I will get it elsewhere.’ Two days after the court judgement, Chantal was found dead in her home. An autopsy showed that she had committed suicide and blood tests revealed a lethal concentration of the drug pentobarbital, a barbiturate not accessible in France but is used as a means of physician-assisted suicide in other parts of the world. Her suicide sparked the debate over euthanasia once again across the world.
Islamic view on Euthanasia
This section will shed light on what Islam has to say about Euthanasia. Prominent Muslim jurists have equated euthanasia to murder and have concluded the practice as haram (prohibited). Al-Qaradawi issued a fatwa (legal opinion) that likened euthanasia to murder. The so called “mercy killing” is morally wrong and it comes under the broader guidelines of the Qurán and Sunnah which condemn killing innocent beings and being involved in committing sin. The Qurán, chapter 5 verse 2 states: “…And do not help each other in sin and aggression…”. Like other religions, Islam preserves the sanctity of life. The principles of Islam teach us that human beings are Allah’s (S.W.T) vicegerent (Al-khalīfah) in this world (Qur’an 2:30-31) and Allah has given respect towards human beings by giving them the ability to control many things (Qur’an 22:65). The Holy Quran guarantees that a Muslim will be tried in this world through which his final destiny is determined by Allah. The Qur’an says: “Be sure that We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits of your toil, but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere (Al Qur’an 2:155). You shall certainly be tried and tested in your wealth and properties and in your personal selves… (Al-Qur’an 3:186). Muslims are expected to be steadfast in their religion are advised to have virtues of beautiful patience and endurance (sabr) in order to deal head on with life’s challenges. The Qur’an 2:155-157 testifies to this statement: “But give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere. Those who say when affected with calamity, ‘To Allah we belong and to Him is our return’. They are those on whom descend blessings from their Lord and mercy. They are the ones who receive guidance.” In Islam, one is taught that it is solely Allah who gives life and has the complete authority of taking it. Allah has appointed a time for every soul to depart this world and no human should meddle with his Divine decree. Preserving the sacredness of life is further highlighted in the Quran 17:33; where Allah instructs “Do not take life which Allah made sacred, other than in the cause of justice.” “The enormity of the sin on a person who deliberately terminates a life other than in the course of justice such as murder or spreading mischief in the land, is as if the whole people have been killed by him” (Qur’an 5:32). This means that the Shaariah (Islamic law) says the one who assists suicide is deserving of the death penalty. The Quranic verse 2:178 says, “O you who believe! Al-Qisas (just retribution) is ordained for you in respect of the murdered.” Allah uses the Qisas specifically to ensure that only those guilty will be sentenced to death. This verse is a great reminder that the one who ends the life of another is just as unfortunate as the person killed has been predestined. The Qur’an says: “And no human being can die save by Allah’s leave, at a term preordained (Qur’an 3:145)”. The abovementioned verse clearly prohibits suicide, euthanasia and other kinds of homicide.
After having been through several types of research, it is evident that only a handful of those opting for euthanasia want to die for reasons related to severe pain or fear of being in excruciating pain due to their condition in the future. Most of them fight to take this approach because they want to die an honorable death. A departure from this world on their terms where they are in full control. They argue that if they were brought into this world unwillingly they should not be coerced into living a life that will rip their dignity away from them. Another reason is because they do not want to become a burden on their loved ones. For example, needing help bathing or using the toilet or pressuring them financially with the cost of expensive treatment that may not be covered by insurance. They would rather die than make things difficult for their loved ones. Those against euthanasia argue that reasons like loss of dignity or becoming a burden are not valid reasons to pursue death. Lifting the ban off euthanasia can open the door to extremely dangerous consequences. People may look to euthanasia as an escape from depression, anxiety and other mental health problems that can be treated over a period of regular counselling. Parents may want to euthanize infants or children with a short life expectancy or poor quality of life. When looking at euthanasia from the lens of a doctor, it is a betrayal of the Hippocratic oath. The role of a doctor as a healer is compromised. It is crucial to shed light on how through euthanasia, man begins to play God. An individual does not get to choose when he exits this world as he did not create himself. In Islam and other religions, euthanasia is strictly prohibited and the parties involved are considered to be committing a grave sin. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, ‘Whoever throws himself down from a mountain and kills himself will be in the fire of hell, throwing himself down therein for ever and ever. Whoever takes poison and kills himself, his poison will be in his hand and he will be sipping it in the fire of hell forever and ever. Whoever kills himself with a piece of iron, that piece of iron will be in his hand and he will be stabbing himself in the stomach with it in the fire of hell, for ever and ever.’ (Bukhari) A Muslim’s perspective is that this world is a testing ground where one will be tried repeatedly in matters of health, wealth etc. During turbulent times one should not contemplate suicide to escape the suffering of this world. People are under that misconception that ending their lives will bring an end to all their sorrows. They could not be farther away from the truth. According to the Islamic belief, committing suicide will unleash a terrible torment for eternity. It is said “do not escape the hate of the desert for the blazing and unforgiving hell-fire.”
To conclude, legalizing euthanasia can have severe repercussions. It is not for humans to decide when they get to die irrespective of their suffering. A person’s life is not his own to take. That power belongs to Allah alone. There are multiple ways to cope like counselling, joining a support group etc. Death is not the solution as it may show the youth that one should resort to seeking death when life’s struggles and pain become unbearable. Since the negatives outweigh the positives, euthanasia should not be legalized.