Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 347–361 | Cite as

Between quality of life and hope. Attitudes and beliefs of Muslim women toward withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatments

  • Chaïma AhaddourEmail author
  • Stef Van den Branden
  • Bert Broeckaert
Review Article


The technological advances in medicine, including prolongation of life, have constituted several dilemmas at the end of life. In the context of the Belgian debates on end-of-life care, the views of Muslim women remain understudied. The aim of this article is fourfold. First, we seek to describe the beliefs and attitudes of middle-aged and elderly Moroccan Muslim women toward withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatments. Second, we aim to identify whether differences are observable among middle-aged and elderly women’s attitudes toward withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatments. Third, we aim to explore the role of religion in their attitudes. Fourth, we seek to document how our results are related to normative Islamic literature. Qualitative empirical research was conducted with a sample of middle-aged and elderly Moroccan Muslim women (n = 30) living in Antwerp (Belgium) and with experts in the field (n = 15). We found an unconditional belief in God’s sovereign power over the domain of life and death (cf. determined lifespan by God) and in God’s almightiness (cf. belief in a miracle). However, we also found a tolerant attitude, mainly among our middle-aged participants, toward withholding and withdrawing (treatment) based on theological, eschatological, financial and quality of life arguments. Our study reveals that religious beliefs and worldviews have a great impact on the ethical attitudes toward end-of-life issues. We found divergent positions toward withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatments, reflecting the lines of reasoning found in normative Islamic literature. In our interviews, theological and eschatological notions emerged as well as financial and quality of life arguments.


Withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatments Non-treatment decision End of life Islam Moroccan Muslim women Qualitative empirical research Grounded theory 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Chaïma Ahaddour, Stef Van den Branden and Bert Broeckaert declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies (Research Unit of Theological and Comparative Ethics)KU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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