Under the Sharī‘a, is a person declared legally dead when they fall into a coma and suffer brain death? Or does Sharī‘a say death occurs only when the heart stops beating?

The Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) is an organization of prominent Muslim American physicians. The IMANA outlines the conditions for which a person may be considered dead:

1. A physician has determined that after a standard examination, a person’s cardiopulmonary function has come to a permanent stop, that is, the body has stopped breathing and the heart has stopped beating; or

2. A specialist physician has determined after standard examination that the function of the brain, including the brain stem, has come to a permanent stop, even if some other organs may continue to show spontaneous activity, that is, brain dead.

Based on this information from the IMANA, it is permissible under the Sharī‘a for death to be declared upon brain death. This opinion is accepted by the majority of Muslim scholars.

Use our HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE software to prepare your own state-specific, legally binding health care directive that is Sharī‘a-compliant and customizable to your situation. You will be able to outline your wishes regarding life support and tube-feeding if you are declared brain dead (permanently unconscious).

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