Overview of Medical Malpractice in UAE

    • 27 Sep 2022
    • Author :

    Medical malpractice, in simple terms, is defined as the deviation of medical professionals from providing the accepted standard of care, which causes harm, injury, or even death to a person.Under the Medical Liability Law of 2016, a medical practitioner must conduct honest efforts and provide the necessary care under the established medical practices. In 2019, the UAE issued Cabinet Resolution No. 40 of 2019, which expanded the 2016 law and clarified certain gray areas, afew of which are discussed below:

    What is Medical Malpractice?

    Medical Malpractice is the act or failure of a medical professional to provide the necessary care as specified by the standard medical practices.Before the issuance of the 2019 Medical Liability Law, Medical Malpractice was defined as a "gross medical error" committed by a practitioner to a patient. Although that term was not defined in the earlier law, the later law passed in 2019 described the term and clarified other gray areas. The definition of Medical Malpractice includes the following:

    • Ignorance of technical issues that practitioners of the professions should be aware of

    • Failure to abide by the acknowledged medical standards

    • Failure to perform with due diligence

    • Failure and negligence in acting with caution

    It should be noted that before the Medical Liability Law was issued, practitioners who made medical errors could also face potential criminal liability for almost any error. However, after the inclusion of "gross medical error" in the definition of Medical Malpractice, practitioners could only be held criminally liable if they were found to have committed a  "gross medical error".

    What is “Gross Error” in Medical Malpractice?

    "Gross medical error" is defined in Article 5 of the Executive Regulations. It also includes examples, scenarios, and criteria where medical malpractice would fall under "gross medical error."

    Included among them are:

    • Death of the patient or fetus

    • Removal of human organs through mistake or loss of their function

    • Unacceptable unfamiliarity with established medical standards

    • Adoption of medically unrecognized methods

    • Deviation from standards and rules of practicing the profession

    • Medical practitioners conducting treatment while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or psychotropic substances.

    • Medical practitioners practicing beyond the scope of their specialization.

    What actions can victims take?

    Victims of Medical Malpractice have three options to recover compensation:

    • A complaint can be filed with the local healthcare authority.

    • A civil complaint can be filed before the civil courts to seek compensation for damages or injuries; and/or

    • A criminal complaint can be pursued against the doctor or health care practitioners.

    What penalties can victims claim?

    In addition to compensation through the courts, the revised Medical Malpractice law introduced penalties against medical practitioners. Included among these penalties are imprisonment for not more than a year and/or AED 200,000 fine to practitioners found to commit gross medical errors. However, if the gross medical error caused the death of the victim, imprisonment of two years or less will be imposed and/or an AED500,000 fine. This imprisonment could be extended to two years and a fine of less than AED1,000,000 if the practitioner was found to commit a gross medical error while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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