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Medical Ethics |

Brain Death and IslamBrain Death and Islam: The Interface of Religion, Culture, History, Law, and Modern Medicine

Andrew C. Miller, MD; Amna Ziad-Miller, JD; Elamin M. Elamin, MD
Author and Funding Information

From the Critical Care Medicine Department (Dr Miller), Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD; New York Law School (Ms Ziad-Miller), New York, NY; and Department of Internal Medicine (Dr Elamin), Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, James A. Haley Veteran’s Hospital and University of South Florida, Tampa, FL.

CORRESPONDENCE TO: Andrew C. Miller, MD, Critical Care Medicine Department, Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, Bldg 10, Room 2C-145, 10 Center Dr, Bethesda, MD 20892-1662; e-mail: Taqwa1@gmail.com


FUNDING/SUPPORT: This work was supported, in part, by the Intramural Research Program of the Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians. See online for more details.


Chest. 2014;146(4):1092-1101. doi:10.1378/chest.14-0130
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How one defines death may vary. It is important for clinicians to recognize those aspects of a patient’s religious beliefs that may directly influence medical care and how such practices may interface with local laws governing the determination of death. Debate continues about the validity and certainty of brain death criteria within Islamic traditions. A search of PubMed, Scopus, EMBASE, Web of Science, PsycNet, Sociological Abstracts, DIALOGUE ProQuest, Lexus Nexus, Google, and applicable religious texts was conducted to address the question of whether brain death is accepted as true death among Islamic scholars and clinicians and to discuss how divergent opinions may affect clinical care. The results of the literature review inform this discussion. Brain death has been acknowledged as representing true death by many Muslim scholars and medical organizations, including the Islamic Fiqh Academies of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Muslim World League, the Islamic Medical Association of North America, and other faith-based medical organizations as well as legal rulings by multiple Islamic nations. However, consensus in the Muslim world is not unanimous, and a sizable minority accepts death by cardiopulmonary criteria only.


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