Children's rights & medical treatment  
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(read also the farsi original text)

Introduction my greetings to the honorable marja’ and most esteemed leader, your eminence Ayatollah al-Hajj Al-Seyyed Ali al-Husseini Khamene’i. I request guidance from you in illuminating the issues noted below:

NB: Each answer is preceded by the epithet, Bismehi Ta’aala, in the Name of the Most High. For the sake of simplicity, it has been omitted from the translation.

Q1: When are boys and girls considered mature (baligh)?

A: According to the well-known criteria, a girl is considered mature after the completion of nine lunar years of age, boys upon the completion of fifteen lunar years.

Q2: What are the signs and criteria for determining maturity (bulugh) in boys and girls?

A: In addition to the above noted criteria, for boys it includes the ejaculation of sperm and for boys and girls, the growth of the coarse hair beneath the umbilicus.

Q3: Until what age is decision-making of children left to the discretion of parents? Under what criteria are children released from this?

A: As long as a child has not reached the age of maturity, or is not mature, the child is under the guardianship of the father, or someone from the paternal lineage (i.e. the grandfather or uncle). After attainment of maturity, the father or paternal lineage no longer has guardianship, unless it is in regards to the marriage of a virgin girl, in which case the permission of the father or paternal lineage is required.

Q4: Is the guardianship of children exclusively with the father, or is the mother party to it as well?

A: The guardianship of a child is exclusively with the father, or the paternal lineage.

Q5: If a child’s guardian fails to live up to his responsibilities or treats the child in a harmful way, can the Islamic ruler of the day revoke his guardianship? In this regard, to whom or to what institution can the guardianship of the child be granted in order of preference? If the first guardian is later deemed fit, is it necessary—is it even permissible—to return guardianship to him? Finally, if the guardian emotionally or physically abuses the child, can he latter still be worthy of having guardianship returned to him?

A: If the ruler by way of witnesses and the child’s state of appearance determines that to forcibly continue the guardianship over the child and his possessions is to the child’s detriment, then the relationship must be severed. With the forcible termination of rights, the guardianship belongs to the hakem-e shar’e (the highest religious authority of the city). After termination, the return of guardianship is at the discretion of the religious authority.

Q6: If parents regularly slap a child in the face, or act aggressively towards any part of the body, granted that (it is forceful enough for) a red imprint of the hand to remain, can that child demand diyyeh (blood money)?

A: Hitting and any type of disciplinary action that leaves a red mark is forbidden, and requires diyyeh.

Q7: In what situations must a child (even if he is mature in body and intellect) still obey the commands of his parents?

A: It is not obligatory to obey one’s parents. However, it is forbidden to annoy them, or cause them grief.

Q8: Is it obligatory for every Muslim to seek treatment for life threatening or non-life threatening illnesses?

A: It is obligatory to seek treatment for life threatening or non-life threatening illnesses if not doing so would lead to harm.

Q9: Do parents have an obligation to seek examination and treatment for their children? A: It is obligatory to seek it.

Q10: If a patient is physically mature, but has not reached the age of decision-making, and there are two treatments available, and the patient and his father are in disagreement as to which to choose, whose decision is given preference?

A: A child’s guardian has a duty to follow the course that he deems best suited for his child.

Q11: If a child or teenager is suffering from a terminal illness, is it that patient’s right to be informed of his diagnosis? Under which of the following circumstances would it be obligatory to tell them: a. If the child is a minor, b. a (physically) mature adolescent, or, c. a mature and discerning adolescent?

A: It is not required that the physician inform him, unless a. not telling the patient would lead to his non-compliance with the treatment, b. in the end lead to his demise, c. result in permanent damage, or, d. if the physician was sought merely for diagnosis (and not for treatment).

Q12: If a Muslim suffers from a terminal illness, is he required to seek treatment? What if the side effects of the treatment are more painful than the illness, or may even result in death? Is it at his discretion to request pain killers (instead of treatment)? If the patient is a minor, is there a different ruling?

A: Even if there is a good possibility that his illness will result in death, it is necessary to seek treatment. In this sense, there is no difference between a minor and an adult.

Q13: Is it permissible for a Muslim physician to prescribe birth control pills for a single Muslim woman at her request, granted that she states that if she becomes pregnant (due to not having been prescribed the pills) that she will certainly undergo abortion of the fetus? Can the Muslim physician justify his prescription on the fact that he is preventing abortion (granted that he knows that in any case she will engage in illicit sexual relations [zina])? What is the ruling for the above situation if the patient is a non-Muslim woman?

A: Absolutely speaking, it is not a problem, unless it is determined that prescribing the birth control pills aids in the sexually illicit relation of zina.

Q14: If a young Muslim lady, before the age of decision making, confides to her physician that she is engaging in illicit sexual activity, should the physician keep her secret, or is he obligated to inform her parents or other responsible parties?

A: Yes, it is necessary to keep it confidential, unless he is certain that telling her parents or other parties will prevent her from this sinful behavior.

Q15: If a physician in the course of his regular examination of a girl for other reasons suspects physical and/or sexual abuse inflicted by some older people, what duty and obligation does the physician have? Is the physician obligated to inform the appropriate Islamic or other responsible authorities, or should he confront the parents and other responsible adults?

A: If discouraging what is evil (nahy an al-munkar) stops with informing the necessary parties, and with this information the disagreeable behavior ceases, then the physician must do so. Of course, that is granted that there is good probability that this illicit behavior will no longer be repeated.

(read also the farsi original text)


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