is rejecting a life-saving operation = suicide?

Question:

salam alaikum,

A close friend to my mother has been diagnosed with cancer involving a tumor. The doctors give her 3 months if she doesn’t have it removed, but possibly as long as 3 years additional life if she does. She does not want to remove it but has heard that Dar al-Ifta al-Masriyya would consider it tantamount to suicide if she does not. Is that correct ?

 

Answer:

Wa alaykumussalam wa rahmatullah,

The Shari`a gives patients of terminal illnesses the free choice between adopting a course of medication and medical intervention, or relinquishing that beyond purely palliative comforts. In the Shafi`i madhhab it is sunnah, recommended and desirable for the sick person to medicate themselves because the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) did it and recommended it, but it is not categorically obligatory because its effectiveness is not certain. What is certain is that the Prophet has promised and guaranteed Paradise in exchange for a Muslim’s acceptance and patient endurance of a terminal illness until natural death. The Tābi‘ī Abū al-Safar (Sa‘īd ibn Yuhmid) related that as Abū Bakr al-Siddiq (may Allah be well-pleased with him) lay sick on his deathbed he was asked: “Shall we bring you a physician to examine you?” He replied: “He examined me already.” “And what did he say?” “He said: ‘I am Doer of what I will!’” [Ibn Sa‘d with a chain of trustworthy narrators, Ahmad in al-Zuhd, Ibn Abī Shayba, Abū Nu‘aym in the Hilya, Ibn ‘Asākir in Tārīkh Dimashq and others]. Therefore to relinquish active medical intervention and treatment can never be compared to suicide.

Suicide is to actively do away with one’s own life, as the verse says, {with your own hands} (al-Baqara 2:195), out of despair in the decree of one’s Lord and as an active usurpation of that decree from His hand by the suicide, as in the hadith of the mortally wounded fighter who then chose to fall on his sword to hasten his death, which is an entirely different act altogether. The latter appears to be what you are referring to in such fatwas as “killing a patient out of mercy”  and “Killing a patient whose recovery is despaired of“. And Allah knows best.

Hajj Gibril Haddad

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