Is organ donation permissible?
Answered by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam, Darul Iftaa (Leicester, UK)
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
The issue of organ transplant has been a matter of great debate and dispute among the great contemporary scholars from around the globe. It has been discussed in various fiqh seminars, and many short and detailed works have be compiled on the subject.
The majority of the Indo/Pak scholars are of the view that organ transplant is not permissible, while, the Arab scholars and some scholars of the Indian subcontinent give its permission under certain conditions, (details of these conditions will be mentioned further along). No body has given a general unconditional permission for the transplantation of organs.
It must be remarked here that this issue is contemporary and obviously it is impossible for us to find express rulings concerning it in the classical works. As such, the views of the contemporary scholars are based upon the general and broad guidelines of Shariah. It is obvious that this will result in difference of opinion, thus no one opinion should be condemned, as the intention of all the scholars is to please Allah, and live a life that is in accordance with Shariah.
1) The view of impermissibility
As mentioned earlier, the majority of the Indo/Pak scholars hold the view that organ transplantation can not be deemed permissible due to the harms and ill effects of it overcoming the potential benefits
There view is based on the following grounds:
a) The first and foremost is that Allah Almighty has honoured the human. Allah Most High says: “And verily we have honoured the children of Adam” (Surah al-Isra, V.70).
As such, it is a well established principle of Shariah that all the organs of a human body, whether one is a Muslim or a non-Muslim, are sacred and must not be tampered with. To take benefit from any part of a human is unlawful (haram).
Allah Almighty made humans the best of creations and created everything for their benefit. Allah Most High Says: “It is He, who has created for you all things that are on earth.” (Surah al-Baqarah, 2.29).
Thus, it is permissible for a human to take benefit from every creation of Allah which includes animals (under certain conditions), plants and inanimate things. As such, it would be unreasonable to place humans in the same category of the above things by giving permission to use parts and derive benefit out of their body that necessitates cutting, chopping and amputating parts of the body. This is certainly unreasonable and unlawful on a human body.
A very famous Hadith prevents the usage of human parts. Sayyida Asma bint Abi Bakr (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Allah’s curse is on a woman who wears false hair (of humans) or arranges it for others”. (Sahih Muslim, no. 2122).
Imam Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) writes in the explanation of this Hadith: “If human hair is used, then it is unlawful by consensus, whether it’s the hair of a man or woman, because of the general narrations that prohibit this. And also, it is unlawful to take benefit from the hair and all other organs of a human body due to its sanctity. The hair of a human along with all his body parts must be buried”. (Commentary of Sahih Muslim by Nawawi, p. 1600).
The Jurists (fuqaha) have stated that in the case of extreme necessity and when there is no alternative available, even unlawful things, such as pork and alcohol, become permissible. However, even in such a situation, consuming or deriving benefit from a human body still remains unlawful.
It is stated in al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya: “If a person feared death due to hunger and another person said to him: “Cut my hand and consume it” or he said: “Cut a part of me and eat it”, it will be unlawful for him to do so. Similarly, it is impermissible for a desperate person to cut part of his own self and eat it”. (al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 5/310).
Allama Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) explains: “Because the flesh of a human remains unlawful even in forceful situations”. (Radd al-Muhtar, 5/215)
Imam Ibn Nujaym (Allah have mercy on him) states: “It is impermissible for the one who is dying out of hunger to consume the food of another person who is also dying out of hunger; neither will be permissible to consume any part of the other person’s body”. (al-Ashbah wa al-Naza’ir, p. 124).
The Fuqaha have also stated that if one was compelled by force to kill another human, it will not be permissible, even if his own life was in danger. (See: al-Kasani, Bada’i al-Sana’i, 7/177 & Ibn Qudama, al-Mugni, 9/331).
Imam al-Marghinani (Allah have mercy on him) states regarding the sanctity of a human: “It is unlawful to sell the hair of a human, as it is (unlawful) to take benefit out of it, for a human is honoured and sacred, and it is not permissible to disgrace any part of a human’s body”. (al-Hidaya 4.39)
A human body is sacred even after his/her death. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Breaking the bone of a dead person is similar (in sin) to breaking the bone of a living person”. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan Ibn Majah & Musnad Ahmad).
The great Hanafi jurist and Hadith Imam, Abu Ja’far al-Tahawi (Allah have mercy on him) writes in the explanation of this Hadith: “The Hadith shows that the bone of a dead person has the same sanctity and honour as the bone of living person”. (Mushkil al-Athar).
In another Hadith it is stated: “Harming a believer after his death is similar to harming him in his life”. (Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shayba).
Also, the books of classical scholars are full with examples indicating the impermissibility of deriving benefit out of a human body due to it being honoured.
In conclusion, the human body, dead or alive has great significance. It is honoured and sacred, and because of the sanctity that is attached to it, it will be unlawful to tamper with it, cut parts of it or dishonour it in any way.
b) The cutting of and tampering with a human body amounts to mutilation and deformation of a divinely created body (muthla), which has clearly been prohibited in Shariah.
Qatada (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) used to encourage giving in charity and prevent Muthla”. (Sahih al-Bukhari, 2/206)
In another Hadith, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Abstain from Muthla”. (Sahih Muslim, 2/82).
This is also supported by the verse of the Qur’an, where Allah Allah Almighty mentions the words of Shaytan, when he said: “I will mislead them and I will order them to slit the ears of cattle, and to deface the (fair) nature created by Allah” (4: 119).
To deface the fair nature created by Allah, both physically and spiritually, is what Shaytan likes and orders to practise.
As far as the permissibility of blood transfusion in cases of need is concerned (See below, for the ruling on blood transfusion and donation, which was posted earlier), it does not necessitate the cutting of human parts or any surgical procedures on the body, rather it is drawn and transfused by means of injection, thus it is akin to human milk that is extracted without any surgical procedures.
c) The human body and parts are not in our ownership in that we may fiddle with them as we desire. It is a trust (amanah) that has been given to us by Allah Almighty. As such, it will be impermissible for one to sell, give or donate any organs of his body. Islam has forbidden suicide for the same reason. There are many texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah that clearly determine this. Thus, it will be unlawful for one to give his organs to another.
d) It is unlawful for an individual to inflict harm upon himself or others. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “It is unlawful to inflict harm upon your self and others, (la dharar wa la dhirar)”. (Mustadrak of al-Hakim)
The famous principle states: “Harm can not be removed by a similar harm” (meaning, in order to remove harm from another individual, it is impermissible for one to harm himself)”. (Ibn Najaym, al-Ashbah, P. 123).
Therefore, it will be impermissible for a living person to donate part of his body due to it being harmful for him.
e) The principle of Islamic jurisprudence states: “When the evidences of prohibition conflict with the evidences of permissibility, preference is given to prohibition”. (Ibn Nujaym, al-Ashbah wa al-Naza’ir).
In view of the above and other evidences, according to this group of scholars, it is unlawful to transplant organs, whether it be of a living person or a dead body, and whether there is a need or otherwise. In other words, there is no permissibility whatsoever for the transplantation or donation of organs.
2) The view of permissibility
According to almost all of the major Arab scholars and also some contemporary Indo/Pak scholars, the transplantation and donation of human-organs would be permissible subject to certain conditions (which will be mentioned later). This view is based on the following grounds:
a) The famous principles (qawa’id) of Islamic Jurisprudence based on the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah permit the use of unlawful things in cases of extreme need and necessity. In case of Necessity, certain prohibitions are waived, as when the life of a person is threatened the prohibition of eating carrion or drinking wine is suspended. Allah Most High says: “He (Allah) has only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that on which any other name has been invoked besides that of Allah. But if one is forced by necessity, without wilful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits, then he is guiltless. For Allah is Most Forgiving and Most Merciful”. (Surah al-Baqarah, v. 173).
The Qur’an also permits the utterance of disbelief (kufr) in order to save your life. Allah Most High says: “Anyone who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters unbelief, except under compulsion whilst his heart remaining firm in faith…” (Surah al-Nahl, V. 106).
The principle of Fiqh, based on the above Qur’anic guidelines, states: “Necessity makes prohibition lawful” (See: Ibn Nujaym, al-Ashbah wa al-Naza’ir, P. 85 ).
According to Imam Shafi’i (Allah have mercy on him), it is permissible for a person dying out of hunger to consume the meat of another human. (See: Ibn Qudama, al-Mugni, 9/335).
Therefore, in cases of need and necessity, impure, unlawful and Haram things become permissible. When a person’s life is in danger and he is in dire need for transplantation, he is in such a situation, thus the transplantation of organs will be permissible.
b) With regards to the aspect of human sanctity, there are two things that need to be taken into consideration.
Firstly, it is true that a human body, whether dead or alive, is honoured and respected, but does the modern procedure violate this sanctity? Islam ordered us to honour a human body but did not prescribe any fixed methods for it. Disgracing a human body may change from one time to another and from one place to another.
Thus, it could be said that the current procedure of organ transplantation is not considered dishonouring a human body. The surgery is performed in the most respectable way and it is not considered to be disrespectful. This is the reason why many highly respected people of the community regard donating of organs as a mark of merit, and they are not looked down upon.
Secondly, there are cases where Shariah overlooks the sanctity that is attributed to the body, such as in the case of saving another human.
It is stated in Tuhfat al-Fuqaha: “If a pregnant woman died and the child in her stomach is still alive, her stomach will be cut open in order to take the child out, for in there is saving the live of a human, thus the sanctity of a human body will be overlooked”. (Samarqandi, Tuhfat al-Fuqaha, 4/261 & Badai’i al-Sana’i).
This is also based on the juristic principle: “If one is confronted with two evils, one should choose the lesser of the two” (al-Ashbah wa al-Naza’ir).
c) As for a human not owning his body is concerned, Islam permits a human in certain situations to utilize his body. It is similar to the wealth which Allah Almighty has given a human, and he is permitted to utilize it (in a correct manner) and give it as a gift.
If an individual is drowning or is in the midst of a burning flame, it is totally permissible to go and save him. Similarly, it will be permissible to donate your organ in order to save the life of a fellow human being.
d) Almost all of the scholars give permission for the transfusion and donation of blood in cases of need and necessity (see below), then why is there a difference in the issue of organ transplant. The surgical procedure of transplantation ensures that one does not go thorough unnecessary mutilation of his body. It is similar to surgical treatment that is carried out on a living person for medication purposes.
In view of the above (according to this group of scholars), it will be permissible to transplant and donate organs in order to save another person’s life. However, this is subject to certain terms and conditions.
The international Islamic fiqh academy (Majma’ al-Fiqh al-Islami) which consists of a number of major scholars from around the globe researched this issue in February 1988, and after extensive research, issued the following verdicts:
Note, that the resolutions of the Islamic fiqh academy have been published in Arabic and translated in a number of languages. Below its translation in English:
1) It is permitted to transplant or graft an organ from one place of a person’s body to another, so long as one is careful to ascertain that the benefits of this operation outweigh any harm that may result from it, and on the condition that this is done to replace something that has been lost, or to restore its appearance or regular function, or to correct some fault or disfigurement which is causing physical or psychological distress.
2) It is permitted to transplant an organ from one person’s body to another, if it is an organ that can regenerate itself, such as skin and blood, provided that the donor is mature and fully understands what he is doing, and that all the other relevant shariah conditions are met.
3) It is permitted to use part of an organ that has been removed from the body because of illness to benefit another person, such as using the cornea of an eye removed because of illness.
4) It is unlawful (haram) to transplant or use an organ on which life depends, such as taking a heart from a living person to transplant into another person.
5) It is unlawful (haram) to take an organ from a living person when doing so could impair an essential and vital function in his body, even though his life itself may not be under threat, such as removing the corneas of both eyes. However, removing organs which will lead to only partial impairment is a matter which is still under scholarly discussion, as is mentioned in resolution 8.
6) It is permitted to transplant an organ from a dead person to a living person when his life depends on receiving that organ, or when vital functions of his body are otherwise impaired, on the condition that permission is given either by the person before his death or by his heirs, or by the leader of the Muslims in cases where the dead person’s identity is unknown or he has no heirs.
7) Care should be taken to ensure that in all of the above situations where transplantation is permitted, no buying or selling of organs is involved. It is not permitted to trade in human organs under any circumstance. However, the question of whether the beneficiary may spend money to obtain an organ he needs, or to show his appreciation, is a matter which is still under the research of the scholars.
8) Anything other than the scenarios described above is still subject to scholarly debate, and requires further detailed research in the light of medical research and shariah rulings. And Allah knows best. (See: Qararat wa tawsiyat majma’ al-fiqh al-Islami, P. 59-60).
The Islamic Fiqh academy of India also discussed this issue, and one of their members who is recognised as a renowned scholar Shaykh Ubaid Allah al-As’adi (Allah preserve him) compiled a very extensive article. The following are summarized points of some of the conditions mentioned in his article (that have not been mentioned in the above resolutions):
1) There should be no other reasonable alternative availible in the view of experienced medical experts
2) All efforts should be made to avoid transplanting of a non-Muslim’s organ into a Muslim and vice versa. If this is not possible, only then the organ of a non-Muslim may be used.
3) Only the organs of a dead person should be used. However, if that is not possible, then only will it be permissible to use the organ of a living person.
In conclusion, the above are the two viewpoints of the contemporary scholars with regards to organ transplant and donation. The stance of some scholars, however, is that they abstain from issuing any verdict altogether on this issue.
My respected teacher, Shaykh Mufti Taqi Usmani is one of those who are reluctant to voice their opinion. In a writing of his which I have (and I have also heard this from him verbally), he states:
“After the compilation of the book ‘Islam’s ruling on organ transplantation’ (by his esteemed father, the grand Mufti of Pakistan, Mufti Muhammad Shafi, in which he strongly emphasised the impermissibility of organ transplantation, and which was also endorsed by Shaykh Taqi, m), I read the various arguments in favour of organ transplantation, thus it has left me hesitant and uncertain in this matter. As such, I now abstain from issuing any verdict.”
Therefore, one may follow any of the above two viewpoints, as they are both from great scholars of Islam. If one acts on the view of permissibility, then it would be advisable, as a precautionary measure, to seek forgiveness from Allah (istigfar) and donate something in charity.
And Allah knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari, UK
All Praises belongs to Allah, who has lavished His favours on His servants, We Seek refuge in Allah, Most Exalted, from the evils of our own selves and from our wicked actions. Whomsoever has been guided by Allah, none can misguide him, and whomsoever has been misguided by Allah, none can guide him. I bear witness that there is no true God worth of being worship except Allah, alone, having no partner. And I bear that Muhammad (s.A.w.) is His slave and His Messenger.
To proceed: "O' servants of Allah, seek treatment for your ailments, for surely He who has created the disease has also given a cure for it. Those who are knowledgeable will be able to discover this cure." (Related by Bukhari)
Aisha' narrated that the prophet (s.A.w.) said: "Indeed the Believers would be hardly pressed, and indeed every believer who is to suffer even from a sting or pain, Allah would as a reward, erase one of his sins and increase his rewards a degree." (Related by Ahmad,Ibn Sa'd, al-Bayhaq & al-Hakim)
The opinion among most Fuqaha (jurists) is that seeking medical treatment is either recommended (Mandub) or obligatory. There are many Ahadith which encourage the Muslims to seek medical treatment. Therefore it is up to the patient to decide whether or not if he wants to undergo organ transplant.
In regards to the prohibition of violating and mutilating the dead, it has been narrated that a man was digging a grave and he stumbled on some bones, the Prophet of Allah (s.A.w.) said:
"Breaking the bones of the dead is like breaking the bones of the living." (Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud & Ibn Majah)
It is a general rule in Fiqh in which it is prohibited to violate, harm or mutilate the dead body whether it is a Muslim or non-Muslim cadaver, as an act of revenge, showing disrespect or doing so without any good reason. There are exceptions to this general rule especially in the light when there is a Necessity (Darurah).
"The Fuqaha of the Maliki and the Hanbal schools state that it is impermissible to dissect a dead pregnant lady in order to retrieve the baby, as it is difficult to determine whether the baby is alive. Because of this uncertainty, it should not be a cause to violate the sanctity of the dead. On the other hand, the Fuqaha of Shafi'i allows this dissection to be carried out. Besides, to dissect a dead body in order to remove valuable goods is allowed according to Jumhur except the Hanbal school." (Ad-Durr al-Mukhtar 3/246)
Nowadays, it is possible for medical authorities to determine whether the baby is alive or not when such cases arise. The uncertainty that some Fuqaha had, is thus removed.
In Fiqh al-Islam wa Adillatuh (7/3), the author concludes: "Based on the rulings which allows dissection on dead bodies in specific cases, therefore any dissection or operation done on the dead body due to a significant necessity is allowable. Forexample, dissection for the knowledge of medicine and dissection in order to find the cause of death to convict criminals by which there are no other avenues to come to the truth (al-Haq). These are based on the Shari'ah principle of establishing justice ('Adil) in any ruling given by the court, inorder to avoid injustice (Dhalim) from happening to the innocent or to ensure the guilty not to escape from the punishment as a result of his crimes.
Even though such dissections are allowed, it should be done within necessary limits withoutoverdoing it. Besides, the sanctity of the dead body has to be respected and handled properly.After the investigation, bits and pieces should be gathered, the body should be closed by suturing itup and finally shrouding the body.
It is also allowable to perform any organ transplant such as the human heart or the eye. This must bewith the condition that the donor is proven to be dead by a specialist in the field. This is because thepriority is given to the living. The success of recovering vision for a human is a wonderful gift and isdemanded by the Shara'."
In al-Ifta', The Permanent Committee for Legal Rulings (Fataawa) in Saudi Arabia conclude the following regarding dissection on dead bodies:
1.Dissection to discover if there is a criminal act causing the death is sanctioned.
2.Dissection to see if there is a contagious disease and to then conclude how to stop its spread is sanctioned.
3.Dissection for educational and training purposes is accepted.
The following is another legal ruling about organ transplant. Wabillahit Taufiq, And the last of our prayer: "Glory to your Lord, the Lord of Honour & Power! He is better from what they ascribe to Him! Peace be upon the Messengers! Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds." (37:180-182)
Organ Transplant Ruling:
List of the Ulama' and Scholars who participated during the consultation and then approved the statement on Organ Transplant:
1.Dr M A Zaki Badawi Principal, The Muslim College, London Chairman, The Muslim Law (Shari'ah) Council UK.
2.Dr Jamal Sulayman, Professor of Shari'ah, The Muslim College, London.
3.Dr A A Hamid, Professor of Hadith, The Muslim College, London.
4.Dr Fazel Milani, Professor at The International College of Islamic Sciences London.
5.Dr S M A Shahristani, Principal, The International College of Islamic Sciences London.
6.Moulana Abdul Hadi Umri, General Secretary, Jamia-te-Ahl-e-Hadith (UK).
7.Moulana Qamaruzzaman Azami, Chief Imam, North Manchester Central Mosque & General Secretary, The World Islamic Mission.
8.Mufti Mohammed Yunus President, The World Islamic Mission & Imam, Woking Mosque.
9.Mufti Mohammed Muniruzzaman, Imam, Munir-ul-Islam Mosque, Rochdale.
10.Dr Abdul Halim, Senior Imam, The Islamic Cultural Centre and London Central Mosque, Regent's Park London.
11.Mufti Alauddin, Head Imam, Brick Lane Central Mosque, London.
12.Moulana Hafiz M Khalid, Head Imam, Sparkbrook Islamic Centre, Birmingham.
13.Moulana Mumtaz Ahmed, Imam of Bradford.
14.A A Bashiri Esq. Barrister-at-Law.
15.R Abdullah Esq. Barrister-at-Law.
16.Dr Safia Safwat, Barrister-at-Law.
17.Moulana M Shahid Raza, Director, Islamic Centre Leicester & Secretary, The Muslim Law (Shari'ah) Council UK.
18.Mr S G Syedain, General Secretary, Imams & Mosques Council UK.
19.Dr. Manazir Ahsan, Director of the Islamic Foundation
Islam holds that Man consists of two essential elements, one material which is the body, the other spiritual which is the soul. Life exists in the human body as long as the soul is joined to it, and it ceases when the soul departs from the body.
"Who made all things good, which He created, and He began the creation of man from clay then He made his seed from a draught of despised fluid. Then He fashioned him and breathed into him of His Spirit, and He appointed for you hearing and sight and hearts. Yet small thanks do you give for it!" (32:7-9)
Thus the cessation of life means the departure of the soul from the body:
"Allah recalls souls at the time of their death, and those who have not died, during their sleep. Heholds on to anyone whom death has been decided for, and sends the others back for a specific period." (39:42)
The soul is a mysterious thing and nobody has been able to discover its nature. Its presence in the body results in life which is observed by the movement and the other conventional signs of life. The departure of the soul from the body results in death, which is associated with certain physical signs arrived at as a result of medical observations and knowledge.
The signs of death which the ancient medical doctors have listed are: lack of consciousness, loss of body temperature, cessation of pulse and breathing, glazing of the eyes, parting of the lips, sagging of the nose, and slackening in the muscles of the hands and feet. The heart used to be considered as the centre of life in the body. When it stopped completely it was assumed that death occurred. But if it regained its functions through first aid practices life is assumed to have returned.
The last five decades have witnessed a big leap in medical science bringing great benefits and skills which were unthinkable before. It is now possible to transplant organs from one body into another, which would help the recipient to continue to live. The significance of the heart has also changed as it is no longer considered the most important organ with regard to life and death. Medical opinion now considers the brain to be the central and crucial part which controls the entire body and its functions. When it is damaged partially or totally the body will suffer either partial or total deterioration. As a consequence of the present development in medical knowledge and skills a number of questions have arisen. These are:
- Is it allowed to remove an organ like the kidney from the body of a living person and transplant it into the body of a sick person whose life depends on it?
- Is it permissible to remove an organ from the body of a dead person to be used to save the life of a living person?
- Is a person allowed to donate his body or part of it to be used after his death in saving the life of other people?
- Does Islam recognise the new definition of death that is brain stem death?
- If it does is it permissible to remove from brain stem dead persons organs for transplant while there are signs of body functions like heart beat temperature and breathing?
Before answering these questions it is important to note the following principles of Islamic Jurisprudence (Usul-Fiqh):
A person has the legal authority over his own body, attested by the fact that he can hire himself for work which might be difficult or exhausting. He may also volunteer for war which may expose him to death. A person is forbidden from harming himself or others (It is not legitimate in Islam to inflict harm on others or to suffer harm from them - Hadith). In case of Necessity certain prohibitions are waived as when the life of a person is threatened the prohibition on eating carrion or drinking wine is suspended.
"He has only forbidden you what has died by itself, blood and pork, and anything that has been consecrated to something besides God. Yet anyone who may be forced to do so, without craving or going too far, will have no offence held against him; for Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." (2:173)
Confronted with two evils a person is permitted to choose the lesser of the two, as in the case of a starving person whose life could be saved by either eating carrion or stealing from another person's food. He would be permitted to opt for the latter. Islam made it an obligation upon the sick to seek treatment.
In the light of the above principles the Council is of the opinion that:
1. It is permissible for a living person to donate part of the body such as the kidneys to save the life of another, provided that the organ donated would not endanger the donor's life and that it might help the recipient.
The Prophet (s.A.w.) says, "Whoever helps a brother in difficulty, God will help him through his difficulties on the Day of Judgement."
2. It is permissible to remove the organ of a dead person to be used to save the life of a sick person.
3. It is permissible for a person to donate his body or parts of it to be used after death to treat those who need transplants. So it is permissible for Muslims to carry a donor card.
4. In the absence of a donor card carried by the dead person it is sufficient to obtain the consent of the next of kin.
5. The proper authorities will act in lieu of relations if they are not known.
Regarding brain stem death, the Council, having discussed the matter over a number of meetings with Doctors and specialists, and having studied the safeguards instituted by the Ministry of Health in Great Britain, went further and examined the research done by trustworthy Muslim Doctors and noted the following:
If the heart stops beating then lack of consciousness and the cessation of breathing will follow immediately.
If however the person is helped by massage of the heart (CPR) or through the use of electric shock (defibrillation) within four or five minutes the heart may restart.
If the flow of the blood to the brain ceased for more than a few seconds damage may occur, although some of the cells will remain alive for four or five minutes. On the other hand if the brain stem ceases to function it cannot be made to restart.
After the brain stem is dead it is possible to preserve some organs functioning for a period from six hours to two weeks. The presence of pulse or movement after the death of the brain stem is not a sign of life. We know that a hanged or beheaded person continues to have pulse and movement for a brief period. But they are not considered to be alive and it would not be possible to bring them back to life.
Based on the above the medical profession concludes that life ceases as a result of brain stem death.
The Council is of the opinion that trustworthy Doctors are the proper and authentic authority when it comes to defining the signs of death.
After a thorough consideration regarding medical opinion and several edicts issued by different religious bodies, the Council arrived at the following conclusions:
After trustworthy Doctors certify that the brain stem has died organs needed to save others' lives might be taken from the body, and then the life support machine may be switched off.
While the Council recognises the need for benefiting from the advances of medical science in alleviating the suffering of the sick and saving lives, it wishes to remind everyone especially Doctors of the following points:
Human beings are the most honoured creature on earth. Their dignity in life and death must be maintained.
"We have dignified the Children of Adam and transported them around on land and at sea. We have providedthem with wholesome things and favoured them especially over many of those whom We have created." (17:70)
Human life is sacred. To terminate the life of one person is equivalent to the termination of the life of all humanity. Conversely the saving of one life is regarded as the saving of all humanity.
"Whosoever kills any person without another soul being involved or for causing corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind and whosoever saves the life of one it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind." (5:32)
The Council is of the opinion that human organs should be donated, and not sold. It is prohibited to receive a price for an organ.