In the name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Withdrawing / withholding medical treatment

بِسۡمِ اللهِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِيۡمِ

It is important to realize that withdrawing or withholding medical treatment is not physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia. By withholding or withdrawing treatment the patients dies because of the underlying disease, not because of any intervention by the doctors. 

In end of life issues it is important for the treating doctors to take in to account the patient’s religious beliefs and cultural background. A lack of understandings on such issues can often lead to avoidable confusion and conflict. 

Muslims believe that life itself is a divine trust and its term is fixed, life can neither be prolonged nor shortened by any human intervention, it is predetermined.  

Regarding withholding and withdrawal of treatment the following principles are to be followed: 

  • It is mandatory to administer vital food and fluids as long as the patient is alive unless a stage is reached whereby such measures would cause harm. 
  • If treatment as a rule leads to a cure and non-treatment leads to significant harm or certain death then treatment is mandatory and life support cannot be withdrawn. 
  • If treatment is expected to lead to a cure or cure is probable then treatment should be attempted. If however, the physician and relatives of the patient after mutual and informed decision-making conclude that treatment is not in the best interest of the patient, then such treatment/ life support can be withdrawn. 
  • If cure is not a realistic expectation then although it is permissible to attempt treatment it is better for the patient to rely on the Will of the Almighty. 
  • If life-sustaining treatment is considered to be futile in the judgment of the medical experts then maintaing life support is unnecessary and a waste of resources. 
  • A decision to withhold or withdraw treatment should be made in consultation with the patient’s family and other members of the health care team.  

The Presidency of the Administration of Islāmic Research and Ifta (Riyadh) issued fatawa no. 12086 on 30/06/1409 AH (1988 CE) stating, “if three knowledgeable and trustworthy physicians agreed that the patient’s condition is hopeless; the life-supporting machines can be withheld or withdrawn. The family members’ opinion is not included in decision making as they are not qualified to make such decisions.”