Analysis: DNR orders and Islam

Many devout Muslims believe that DNR orders represent a soft form of euthanasia which is strictly forbidden in Islam. According to the Koran, Muslims cannot kill, or be complicit in the killing of another, except in the interests of justice.

However, the Islamic Code of Medical Ethics states “it is futile to diligently keep the patient in a vegetative state by heroic means… It is the process of life that the doctor aims to maintain and not the process of dying”. This means doctors can stop trying to prolong life in cases where there is no hope of a cure.

Traditionally, death in Islam has been equated to organ death – notably heart and lung functions. However, in 1986 the third International Conference of Islamic Jurists issued a fatwa (Islamic ruling) that “equated brain death to cardiac and respiratory death”.

If three independent doctors diagnose brain-stem death then a person can be considered to have died and their life-support turned off, they ruled.