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ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES-04

0609-LIFE: DEFINITION, NATURE, QUALITY, and VALUE

Background reading material for Year 1 Semester 1 medical student PPSD session on 20th  September 2006 by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr.

DEFINITION OF LIFE

Life is a complex phenomenon with biological, chemical, and spiritual components. Humans share biological life with plants and animals. They share spiritual life with angels. No other creation resembles humans in having physical and spiritual life at the same time. Life without any spirituality is not a full human life but is a life of animals.

 

Life can be described at various levels: the soul, the whole living organism, the organ, the tissue, the cell, sub-cellular structures, the molecule, and the atom. The highest level is that of the soul about which we know very little. We however know that the soul is the essence of human life and that it is eternal.

 

Biological life can be looked at in three stages: pre-uterine, uterine, the post-uterine phases. The post-uterine phase has in return got two stages: life on earth and life in the hereafter.

 

Life belongs to the Creator and not the human. The Creator gives and takes away life. Humans do not own their life but are temporary custodians of life enjoined to take good care of it. Humans have no control over life or death.

 

NATURE OF LIFE

Human life on earth has a definite time span. No human endeavor including the most advanced medical procedures can shorten or extend this time span. The whole purpose of medicine is to exert maximum efforts to improve the quality of remaining life since the Creator alone knows the timing of death. Life can be a happy or unhappy. A good life is related to good deeds.

 

QUALITY OF LIFE

The quality of life can be defined in physical, mental, or spiritual dimensions. The physical criteria are: absence of disease, comfortable environment, and basic necessities. The mental criteria are: calmness, absence of neurosis and anxiety, and purposive life. The spiritual criteria are mainly correct relation with the creator.

 

VALUE OF LIFE

Human life is a gift from the Creator. Humans must be grateful for the gift of life. Good health and a stress-free life are two bounties that many people do not enjoy. Each human has an inalienable right to life from Allah. The sanctity of life is guaranteed by the Law. The life of each single individual whatever be his or her age, social status or state of health is important and is as equally important as the life of any other human. Protection of life is the second most important purpose of the law coming second only to the protection of morality. No material value can be put on human life. Every life is as important as any other life. Destroying the life of one person is equivalent to destroying the life of all humans.

 

CRITERIA OF LIFE

Traditionally cardio-respiratory and neuro-sensory signs were used as criteria of life. Death was presumed to occur when they disappeared. Modern medical technology is now able to keep people on artificial life support in which cardio-respiratory and other functions are maintained when they are already brain dead and have no chance of recovery.

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule September 2006