powers of attorney" to a friend or relative
who would be able to instruct doctors to starve
to death a patient who becomes incapacitated.
who refuse to carry out such instructions risk prosecution
for assault and a possible jail term.
the Islamic Medical Association is urging
its members to defy the Act, which comes into force
fears the law will compel Muslim doctors
to stop life-preserving treatment or remove tubes
providing food and water.
"British doctors are worried today about the
Act, which allows and in some cases requires food
and water to be denied to mentally incapacitated,
non-dying persons," said a spokesman.
"In doing that, our innocent patients will
die in pain and agony from the horrific effects
of starvation and dehydration.
"We oppose strongly any court decision or power
of attorney used to justify participation in starving
or dehydrating anyone to death.
"All Muslim doctors, nurses and patients, expressing
our Islamic beliefs, should oppose this inhumane
Other religious groups have also voiced their opposition
to the law.
Earlier this month, the Roman Catholic Church
said doctors had a moral obligation to provide food
and fluid to patients in a vegetative state.
Tube feeding has been classified as a "treatment"
- not a necessity - since the House of Lords ruled
in 1993 that doctors could end the life of Tony
Bland, who was left in a coma after being crushed
in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.
The Vatican said artificial nutrition
should not simply be terminated just because doctors
have determined that a person will never recover
A statement said: "The provision of water and
food, even by artificial means, always represents
a natural means for preserving life and is not a
Dr Majid Katme, spokesman of the Islamic
Medical Association UK, said all Muslims fully supported
the Vatican’s position.
He said: "We believe that the basic means for
survival (food and fluid) should be ensured for
every human being (and animal), whether or not they
are healthy, ill or incapacitated. This is a basic
human right for all. All human life is sacred, and
only God, the Creator, has the right to end any
human life, in its appointed time."
He added that these patients would "die in
pain and agony from the horrific effects of starvation
and dehydration" and strongly opposed the act.
He said: "All Muslim doctors, nurses and patients,
expressing our Islamic beliefs, should oppose this
Anthony Ozimic, of the Society for the Protection
of Unborn Children-said the Act placed doctors in
a serious dilemma.
He urged the church to support health workers of
any faith "resisting pressure to co-operate
in the killingby-omission of their patients".
Mr Ozimic added: "Everyone, particularly Catholics,
should be made aware that the church teaches definitively
that no advance directive nor court decision nor
power of attorney can justify participation in starving
or dehydrating anyone to death."
A spokesman for the British Humanist Association
said, however: "The doctor's first duty is
to the patient and part of that has to be respecting
their patients' deeply-held wishes in relation to
"Doctors' own religious convictions should
never be allowed to interfere with patients' rights."
The British Medical Association
has also said it will not support doctors who deliberately
ignore patients' wishes.