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Expert calls for new fatwa on brain dead.

Summary: AL-HASA: A leading Saudi medical expert, known in the global scientific community for his pioneering research in cardiology, has called on the Kingdom's Islamic scholars to revise their ruling on terminating the life of a person who is "clinically dead" or "brain dead."


"As long as a patient's heart is beating there is no reason for us to take him or her off the ventilator," said Dr. Abdullah A. Abdulgader, director of the Prince Sultan Cardiac Center in Al-Hasa.

Abdulgader said his view is based on research carried out by top cardiologists who are attending a three-day international conference on advanced cardiac sciences in this historic Saudi city.

"Everyone who is attending this conference, including professor Franz Halberg of the University of Minnesota and Dr. Rollin McCraty of California's Institute of Heartmath, believes that the heart is where life is. As long as the heart is functioning a person should be considered as being alive. All these experts are of the unanimous view that the heart, not the brain, is the king of organs," he said. "And all of them are basing their judgment on impeccable research."

According to a fatwa issued in the Kingdom 22 years ago and which is still the guiding principle in cases of terminally ill patients, a person who is in coma and is declared as clinically dead or brain dead should be disconnected from the ventilator. This essentially means that the patient's beating heart should be allowed to die. The fatwa, approved by the Kingdom's top religious authority, was based in large part on the advice of the medical community.

"Twenty-two years ago we did not know what we know now," explained Abdulgader. "What we know now is that a beating heart produces energy, it produces electromagnetic waves. These waves react with the outside world. The happenings in the cosmos and the outside world has a direct bearing on the way our heart reacts," he said.

Abdulgader said these electromagnetic waves are similar to airwaves. "What do you do when you turn on your television or radio. You basically try to catch a certain frequency and when that is matched there is communication -- the radio and the television come alive. The same is the case with our heart waves. When it matches a certain frequency it is able to communicate with the higher force in life," he said.

The electromagnetic waves that a beating heart generates create a radius of six to 12 feet from the center of the heart. "This is considered to be a substantial amount of energy. Let me put it this way, when the heart beats (there's) something like 2.2 volts of energy ... this is enough to light up a bulb. There is a halo of light around our heart when it is beating. This is nothing but a sign of life," he said.

As a Muslim, he said he is aware of what the Holy Qur'an says about the heart. "The human heart is mentioned umpteen times in the Holy Qur'an ... it as a sentient organ that has the capacity of being a center of reasoning, intentions and decision-making. Consequently, hearts can either be healthy or diseased. Healthy (or soft) hearts can have a human attitude and balanced rationale, while diseased (or hard, stony) hearts can lose both their human touch and their capacity to see and understand."

However, he said, experts in the past restricted the function of the human heart to the mere process of pumping blood throughout its body. "Well, the heart is not just a pumping machine. That is for sure."

In the light of new studies, he said a fresh dialogue needs to be initiated with the ulema. "We respect our ulema. They deserve all our respect. They are intelligent people. They just need to be told about the new research. Once they are convinced they will automatically revise their ruling and will allow a person in a coma but with a beating heart to continue living and to let him continue communicating with his heart. A person's spirit is in the heart and as long as it is beating the communication is on and should not be physically terminated. We should not interfere in the ways of God. He has given life and only He will take it away."

Abdulgader compared the act of taking a person off a ventilator to abortion. "In fact, this is worse than abortion. We say abortion is a big taboo. And what we are doing here? Ending a life that has emotions, relatives, a life of 50 years, 60 years. In abortion you simply terminate a life in the womb of a woman that has no emotions. Think about that.

"The conference, dubbed as 'King of Organs 2010,' is totally focusing on the affairs of the heart and all new research in the field of cardiology," added Abdulgader.

Copyright: Arab News 2009 All rights reserved.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Sep 29, 2010
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