|Islamic Biomedical Ethics: Principles and Application|
|Published by tislam|
|Saturday, 19 May 2012 16:43|
Oxford: Oxford University Press
The emerging field of Islamic Ethics is an exciting, relevant and vital branch of contemporary religious ethics. As an important medical contribution to the literature, Islamic Biomedical Ethics demonstrates the use of traditional Islamic values, theories of moral reasoning, juridical-ethical principles, and scholarly viewpoints to address a range of modern healthcare issues.
Abdulaziz Sachedina explains the foundation of this approach in chapter one. He contends Islamic medical ethics is currently based on Aristotelian ethics and strict juridical opinions that fail to engage with Islamic normative sources and for this reason, Sachedina alleges, they also fail to adequately confront the ethics of Muslim healthcare. Therefore, this book serves to offer a wide-ranging ethical discourse within a relatively new methodology of Islamic bioethics that includes the elements listed above to offer religiously acceptable recommendations. He makes the central argument that this approach can generate common language with secular and other monotheistic medical traditions, and it can also influence how bioethical issues are perceived and handled, which are often different in culturally-sensitive Islamic regions. Since Sachedina’s perspective reflects a broad approach, it may appeal to Muslim laypersons trying to better understand the issues, as well as to fellow Muslims ethicists and to Christian, Jewish, and secular bioethics scholars. Additionally, this approach may be of use to non-religious international humanitarian organizations (e.g. WHO) that often engage with Muslim patients, who have specific customs and practices to recognize and address Muslim ethics issues.
Sachedina develops his methodology in chapter two by effectively exploring various legal, ethical, philosophical, and social principles related to Islamic bioethics. He then applies these principles to specific issues in healthcare ethics. For example, chapter three attempts to further investigate the subject of health and suffering from a theological perspective to invite further discussion on the teleology of, and approach to, suffering and its relationship to faith and medicine. Chapters four, five, and six present an ethical discourse on the beginning and final phases of human life, respectively. Chapter four delves into relevant topics in sexual ethics like different techniques in reproductive medicine, adoption and eugenics, while chapter five looks at historical, legal, social and religious dimensions of the contentious subject of terminating early human life. In chapter six, Sachedina investigates different areas regarding the end of human life, which include theological conceptions of death, clinical terminology related to stages of dying, and end-of-life decisions.
Similarly important and controversial topics, issues related to organ donation and cosmetic enhancement, are discussed in chapter eight, including autopsies, autonomy and donation, the value and categorization of human organs and gender changes. Sachedina’s final main chapter expounds the most recent developments in technology, which pose issues for human cloning and stem cell research. He also proposes how these changes may be approached from a cultural and religious point of view based on issues that are raised in local regions. In the wake of advancing technology, Sachedina asserts the overall objective of this approach is for medical and religious institutions to come together and propose reasonable options to these issues. These main chapters are followed by a reflective epilogue, a helpful glossary, chapter-related notes, a current and comprehensive bibliography and an index.
Why should Sachedina’s book be a significant addition to a reader who has interest in Islamic ethics? One may overlook it as just another impression of Islam or ethics. And after all, Islamic ethics is arguably a relatively new, complex and unfamiliar domain that is ‘foreign’ to Western ethics due to its foundational precepts which express how one should engage with another. Yet, Muslim bioethical matters seem to be becoming more prevalent in the secular sphere with little or no training for appropriate responses. As a well-known ethics scholar and a pioneer in the development of Islamic bioethics, Sachedina does not necessarily make the subject easier to understand nor does he claim to have definite answers.
Rather, he responds by enlightening the reader with not only a rich historical analysis of Islamic ethics, but also guiding them with an accurate assessment of modern-day issues which, most importantly, includes a plausible Islamic-based proposal for dealing with them. This style of writing expresses a sense of urgency that allows the reader to adequately understand why Islamic bioethics needs to be taken seriously in our time. Going beyond insipid abstract theory, the value of this book arguably lies in its contemporary concern for patients and professionals who, in a pluralistic culture, may likely encounter bioethical issues involving Muslims.
This justifiable concern originates, it seems, from Sachedina’s vast local and foreign interactions with government bodies, Islamic seminaries, universities, medical facilities, and charitable organizations. Rather than detach from or ignore them, he has taken the time to investigate and understand the pragmatic issues in the heart of the community. This research has allowed him to address relevant issues to these types of institutions as well as public forums to educate the community.
However, Sachedina’s work alone is not entirely sufficient. Dynamic changes in science and medicine demand further research and exchange towards creating greater awareness of new issues through an Islamic ethics system, which is suitable for interaction with other religious and non-religious structures. This is arguably what practical Islamic ethics is about and what is needed if Islamic bioethics is to be an essential field in medical ethics. Therefore, this material also poses a challenge for future Muslim ethicists who envision further progress in the field. These universal goals are what Sachedina seems to strive for in this book. For these reasons, Abdulaziz Sachedina’s insightful, realistic, and meaningful work, Islamic Biomedical Ethics, can be considered a significant addition for a curious observer of religious medical ethics or one who has interest in how to interact with their fellow humanity.