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Islamic bioethics > Christian bioethics

Thursday, 6 March, 2008

Wired Science Blog has an entry titled “A Beginner’s Guide to Muslim Bioethics“. I’m surprised at how progressive some of the Islamic bioethicists are. Perhaps they are some of the more liberal of the bunch, but nonetheless it surprised me.

Here is a shortlist by Hamza Eskandarani, a bioethicist of of King Faisal University:

[Intra-uterine insemination], [In vitro fertilization], [Intra cytoplasmic sperm injection], etc. are permitted for married-only heterosexual couples.

No donation of any sort is allowed. Surrogacy is also not permitted. However, some Shea clerics permit the use of donated embryos and oocytes as practiced in Iran.

Freezing of sperm, oocyte, embryo, and ovarian and testicular tissues are permitted so long as the samples are kept in conditions which will not permit them to be mixed, donated, or utilized outside marriage.

Sex selection can be performed in case of medical necessity or family balance (although some Islamic scholars object to it).

Embryo reduction is still debatable and we have to wait for clear Fatwa (casting of opinion or non-binding but authoritative religious proclamation); some scholars permit it on the ground of life-threatening to the mother and other fetuses.

Micromanipulation is permitted to overcome infertility cases as well as investigate the resulting embryo but not to mix cells or DNA. It is believed that ensoulment of the embryo happens after 40 days of fertilization and research on embryo should not be permitted after day 14 of the fertilized egg. […]

Gene therapy is permitted which as long as the benefits outweigh the detriments.

Reproductive cloning is not permitted, however, therapeutic cloning is allowed as long as the cloned cells are derived from a completely legal source.

So, it seems that they are more capable of looking at benefits vs. risks, rather than taking an absolutist position. This is helped considerably by the fact that Muslims consider personhood to begin a few days after conception, rather than very close to the time of conception (or before it) by many Christians. Still, if some biotech procedure is prohibited under Sharia, there could be far more considerable resistance to it than in the Christian nations. For example, I doubt that any Islamic bioethicist would allow for transgenic humans, or even a human having genes from a source other than one of the two parents (say, cytoplasmic transplants or genetic modifications for good looks or intelligence).

For further reading, there is a good list of Islamic views on controversial medical practices here (some in Arabic too): Islamic Views on Medical Issues

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