November 9, 2013
A court will this week decide whether a seriously ill Muslim man should not be revived if his condition deteriorates – against the wishes of his family, who say it is God’s will that doctors must do all they can to keep him alive. The case, which will be seen in some quarters as a clash between the state and religion, is the first of its kind to deliver a judgment following a supreme court ruling last month that found doctors were right to withdraw treatment from a man in Liverpool.
The Muslim man, who has been in hospital for five-and-a-half months since suffering a heart attack, is barely conscious. The NHS trust in charge of the hospital where he is being cared for, and which cannot be named for legal reasons, argues that to revive him is not in the man’s best interests if his condition worsens.
The case will be studied closely by all faith groups, especially those who believe in a literal interpretation of scripture that, they claim, determines religious law must take precedence over law made by statute.
There have been legal challenges by Christian groups brought against right-to-die campaigners but this is the first challenge against a Do Not Resuscitate order following a ruling last month in the supreme court which said that appeal judges were right to allow doctors to withhold treatment from David James, a “gravely ill” man from Liverpool who died last December.
A verdict this week against the family is likely to dismay some Muslim groups. But, equally, many doctors’ groups are likely to resent any ruling that sees religious views take precedence. It is likely that either side could appeal if the ruling goes against them.