Dieing with Religion

An article on the BBC News website caught my eye today, (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-19322413). Its basically about a Muslim family who want to force the hospital, where the father is very ill, to resuscitate him. Watching a very ill parent lie immobile on bed, struggling to breath and incapable of any self-motion is considerably distressing.

I remember seeing my mother ill with cancer, struggling to breath and no longer able to feed herself, let alone make it off the bed and round the house. Its horrible and oh how I wanted to see her back to her old healthy self again. I hated seeing her like that, yet I also wanted her to cling to life for as long as possible. I wasn’t ready to let her go then and in many ways I am still not, four years later.

So I sympathise with the family concerned.

Yet, I am also concerned about the message they are sending through this action. Their statement is that under Islam, they believe that you prolong life. I imagine this is a sentiment that many Christians would agree with, one I am sure I would have too. Still do in many ways. However, is this actually life they are seeking to prolong? What life is it they seek? They certainly are not going to get their father back, no matter how long they keep his body breathing and his heart beating? While I will readily accept that I am in no way a knowledgeable person on Islam and what it teaches. I do find myself asking the question “does Islam really teach that we must do all we can to prevent a body from physically dying, even when the person inside has no active part to play in life?”.

There is a time for everything; we all must die someday, it would appear that the time is nigh for this gentleman. It is sad, at 55 he is not old by today’s standards and he is younger than my mother was when she passed. Its sad that people do still fall ill and die at that age, there is always a family grieving a loved one who was taken from them way too young.

What concerns me most about this case is that there is a subtle message here that places this Muslim family, during what should be a private time, in the public eye because they are being denied a religious right by the big evil state. The cynic in me wonders if this is intentional, to create unhelpful headlines elsewhere in the world when the story gets repeated with a pro-Islam slant. I hope its not true, but we live in a time of constant suspicion of motive and second guessing.

The spokesperson who is quoted gets it right when they say that it is prolongation of death and lack of dignity. This was something I had to come to terms with after Mum died, the three or four years she bravely fought the cancer started off hopeful and got progressively more desperate. There have times since when I have genuinely wondered if it would have been better for everyone if the cancer treatment had never been given and death be allowed to come swiftly. Those years were a long death, with much pain and sadness. The false hope created by each new treatment made the come down on the realisation of the truth even more painful. Dignity was most certainly not increased and her barely breathing unconscious body had none. Resistance really was futile.

I hope this family comes to terms with their loss and does not feel bitter afterwards because of this action. That would likely taint the memory of a loved father in a way that is not helpful.