Face Transplant Surgery from Brain Dead Patient Allowed?
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Face Transplant Surgery from Brain Dead Patient Allowed?

Questioner

Adam

Reply Date

Sep 17, 2019

Question

We read in the news about the operation of face transplant, where facial tissue from a donor who was brain-dead was used to repair severe damage from the top of the woman's nose to her chin. The woman had been bitten on her face by a dog.

The doctors who carried out the operation said, "We decided to go ahead with the transplant operation of the face because it does not only restore the anatomy and the aesthetics, but also the function of this face."

The team painstakingly transplanted skin, muscle tissue, connecting lots of blood vessels and nerve cells.

The above case raises many ethical and Islamic concerns that require an urgent response by Muslim scholars and jurists. Is carrying out such an operation permissible? Also, is it permissible to use the face of a person who is declared brain-dead for such a purpose? Are we allowed to go for a face transplant operation for both major and minor deformities?

Mufti

Answer


Face Transplant Surgery from Brain Dead Patient Allowed?

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.


In this fatwa:

As to whether we should resort to face transplant, this should be restricted to cases of necessity or extreme needs.


Responding to the question, Dr. Maher Hathout, the late Chairman of the Islamic Center of Southern California, Los Angeles, states:

One of the basic objectives of Islam is to alleviate people’s physical and psychological suffering by guiding them to the best way through which they can lead a happy and honorable life.

Easiness and flexibility are the basic characteristics of Islam in this regard; whenever man faces hardship in his life, the Islamic Law is usually relaxed. Allah Almighty refers to this in the Glorious Quran when He says, {He has chosen you and has not laid upon you in religion any hardship.} (Al-Hajj 22:78)

As for the first issue, if the patient is diagnosed as brain-dead by specialists and this is confirmed by a flat wave on the EEG (Electroencephalogram), this means that this person is considered to be dead.

If that person, during his or her lifetime and while in a state of awareness, decided to donate his or her organs after death to save or improve the life of others, this is—and Allah knows best—an act of charity.

Regarding whether there is a special ruling for the face or not, I do not think that the face is more important than the heart, the kidney, the liver, or the cornea of the eyes, whose transplantation was allowed by scholars.

If the issue is a mere concern about the similarity in complexion and features, I would say that this similarity will not be completely identical; besides the medical technology now can make the transplanted face look as close as possible to the features of the patient before injury.

As to whether we should resort to this kind of surgery regardless of the severity of the injury, in my judgment this should be restricted to cases of necessity or extreme need because, as we know, the Shari`ah of Islam classifies matters into necessities, needs, and conveniences. So this technique should be used in cases of necessities or extreme needs.

Almighty Allah knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.




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