Explanation and Comparison of the Concept of Coma, General Anesthesia, and Brain Death in Iranian Fiqh and Law

Morteza Chitsazian


This paper tries to discern the meaning of coma from general anesthesia and brain death in Shia jurisprudence and Iranian law. In medical science, coma is defined as a state of prolonged unconsciousness without any environmental awareness and wakefulness, general anesthesia is a drug-induced loss of consciousness during which the patient losses protective reflexes and stops registering memory, and brain death is the irreversible cessation of all brain functions. When discussing the state of a comatose patient, it should be remembered that coma itself is not a disease, but rather the effect of a disease or injury that has lowered the person’s level of consciousness for an uncertain period of time, which could be short or very long. From a medical perspective, comatose people are alive and exhibit vital signs. Accordingly, in the Shia jurisprudence and law, these people are treated as living no matter how long they have been comatose. In other words, a comatose person cannot be considered dead because of the long duration of coma. This is however different from brain death, that is, when the brain is damaged irreversibly and exhibits no vital sign. While a person with brain death is definitely dead, comatose people have a chance of regaining consciousness and recovering, which makes them more akin to people under general anesthesia. In this paper, we first compare the states of coma and general anesthesia and then discuss the state of brain death individuals and make a comparison with coma.


Coma; General Anesthesia; Brain death; Incapacitated; Capacity

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18415/ijmmu.v8i2.2363


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