Medical malpractice claims in the UAE courts can be daunting for healthcare professionals, particularly expatriate doctors who are not familiar with the legal system, in particular the federal law on medical liability.
Doctors and healthcare providers must be alert to the various courses of action available to patients, and the potential repercussions. In the UAE, medical malpractice claims can be pursued in three different ways: lodging a complaint with the appropriate healthcare authority; bringing a civil case before the courts; or pressing criminal charges with the police or public prosecution. These options can be pursued either at the same time or sequentially, although proceedings before the criminal court will usually stay any civil case.
Medical complaints before healthcare authorities can be filed by patients, their families or someone acting on behalf of the patient (provided their consent is obtained). The healthcare authorities responsible for regulating hospitals in the UAE (i.e. the Dubai and Abu Dhabi Health Authorities, and the Ministry of Health) will investigate complaints against physicians and determine whether or not the appropriate medical professional standards were met. If a physician is found to be negligent, the healthcare authority is empowered to take four separate disciplinary actions: (a) reprimand the healthcare professional or institution; (b) require the physician to undergo further training and supervision from another licensed healthcare professional; (c) suspend or revoke either the physician’s or the hospital’s license (temporarily or permanently depending on the nature of the medical error(s); or (d) fine the institution.
Patients can also approach the civil courts to claim monetary compensation against healthcare providers and professionals for damages suffered due to medical malpractice. The court will award compensation if it finds that a healthcare professional was medically negligent.
There are no precedents for the figures awarded by the courts in medical malpractice claims. The amounts vary from case to case and are at the discretion of the judge, who assesses the level of damages suffered by a patient. The decision will be based on a review of the evidence, which usually includes a medical expert report or opinion.
Doctors in the UAE can also be subject to criminal liability and convictions for professional negligence under the UAE Penal Code (Federal Law No. 3 of 1987) and the Medical Liability Law (Federal Law No. 10 of 2008). This can result in a prison sentence or a financial penalty depending on the nature of the malpractice and the extent of the injury endured by a patient, which is usually supported by an expert medical opinion.
Doctors in the UAE thus face considerable legal risk when treating patients, so they must ensure they exercise due care and skill. Moreover, they must do so in accordance with acceptable and recognised medical principles to avoid the foregoing consequences of being found liable for medical malpractice in the UAE. Ultimately, the objective of the legal and regulatory framework is to protect patients and their families, and to ensure that the medical profession operates to the highest possible standards.
This is a sponsored article written by Hiam Al Muhtadi, Associate, and Ahmed Allouz, Partner at Al Tamimi & Company.
Copyright: UMS International Fz LLCTheme