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In the Name of God بسم الله
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chitown

Use Of Ventilator

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I want to discuss something from my very recent personal experience. Earlier this year my father went on a visit to Pakistan. While there, he suffered from a stroke and fell terribly ill. Due to further complications like a very severe lung infection, cardiac arrest (he was resuscitated) and then subsequently a heart attack. While in Pakistan one of my aunts was taking care of him; I got there on the fourth day after his stroke.

 

When I got there, I found out that he was on a ventilator (which my aunt didn't tell me while I was in US). She had given the consent for the use of the ventilator. He was heavily sedated and could not move or talk. Even when he was not much sedated, he could barely communicate, it was usually just a nod or a faint blink of an eye.

 

The day I got there I was told by a very dear friend of my father (who is also a doctor) that I should prepare myself for any news. This pretty much told me that my dad was not going to make it. The doctors in the hospital said there was a chance of improvement, but they also said they will NEVR SAY NO until the very end. This was a private (and a very expensive) hospital (one could easily see their commercial interest in everything they did).

 

His condition deteriorated every day and the infection got out of control. Four days after I got there two of my aunts flew in as well and right away said we should remove the ventilator. At the time I said no, because I was told by a (shia) doctor a day before, that it is not allowed to take the ventilator off. (My father was a Sunni and so are his sisters). So I thought I should confirm this and talked to two maulanas (shia as well, as I follow the shia faith).

 

One of them was very clear that taking a machine off that can cease one's breathing is equivalent of being involved in his murder.

 

Another was of the view that if the doctors say that the patient is not going to make it then, you can take the ventilator off. But as I mentioned earlier, the doctors at the hospital said they are never going to say no.

 

We got in touch with one of our distant relatives who worked at the hospital. He went through the whole case and said to me that I needed to take his ventilator off and end his agony. Which I did; this happened 17 days after his stroke. He was then breathing on his own for another 26 hours and passed away.

 

Its been two months now and I am still very disturbed by all that happened. After he passed away the same people who had asked me to take the ventilator off said to me that I had killed my own father.

I feel guilty and not a single day has gone by where I haven't thought about all this.

 

I would like people to share any and all information they have on this issue of use of machines like a ventilator that can artificially support a person, when he/she cannot live/breathe on their own. And why is it that there is a strong verdict on it being equivalent of removal of such devices as committing or being part of a murder. Also, how is it that one aalim says its murder and the other says it is OK to remove it if the doctor says it. What I don't get is; how can it be a huge sin if you listen to one aalim, and OK if you listen to another. How are you supposed to decide? After all they are all opinions right?

 

Since these machines are so commonly used, I wish there was more awareness about his issue (which in all honestly I did not know much about until all this happened), and also wish the aalims talked more about it.

 

Thank you.

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