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Medical Negligence - Frequently asked Questions

Published on : 10 Nov 2014
Author(s):Niharika Singh,Surbi Ver

Q1. What exactly do you mean by medical malpractice?

Ans.      All doctors and medical practitioners have an obligation to their patients to ensure that they are providing a certain standard of care. When a doctor or medical practitioners fails to meet this standard, it can come to be known as medical malpractice.


2. Is there a particular law in the UAE about medical negligence and malpractice?

Ans.      Yes, The Government of UAE enacted Federal Law number 10 of 2008 which governs specific aspects of doctor and patient relationship. Article 3 and Article 4 of this particular law outline in great detail the duties and obligations of a doctor or medical practitioner towards his/her patients. It is important to understand that the law does not wish to make it difficult for the doctors to treat their patients but to ensure that they are practicing this noble profession with accuracy, honesty and in accordance with recognized scientific and technical principles.

3. I recently had an outpatient treatment for psoriasis which is a skin condition. This treatment entails being exposed to radiation for treatment. I am certain that I was exposed to radiation for longer than I should have. This resulted in me fainting and suffering from second degree burns on some part of my body. What do you suggest I do?

Ans.      I am sorry to hear about your condition. Legally speaking, you should obtain an opinion from another doctor at the earliest. It is important to understand and determine that the cause for the burns and your fainting can be directly attributed to the negligent treatment you received. If it is proven that the treatment caused second degree burns, then you can file a complaint at the Ministry of Health and/or bring a civil action against the medical institution. The procedures for filing a complaint at the Ministry of Health in Dubai and at the Health Authority in Abu Dhabi vary slightly.


4. Are there any criterias which have to be met with in order for a case to fall within the purview of a Medical Malpractice?

Ans.      The law on medical malpractice is liable to be misused leading to serious implications being drawn on either party. In order to safeguard the interest of both the patient and the doctor, certain conditions must be established. At a preliminary stage, the court shall examine the duty of care cast upon the doctor towards his patient. Subsequently, the court must also ascertain that the standard of care expected to be exhibited by the medical practitioner was in fact lacking and that it was consequent to the doctor’s negligence that the patient suffered injury and damages.

5. What is the procedure that one must follow to file a case of medical malpractice in Dubai?

Ans.      The aggrieved party alleging the medical malpractice has the option of following any one of the following procedures:

  (a) By filing a civil case in the Dubai Court; or

  (b) Report the malpractice to the Dubai Police or Public Prosecutor, which shall result in initiation of a criminal case against the           physician involved; or

  (c) By filing a complaint with the Dubai Health Authority.


6. What are the remedies available to the victim of medical malpractice?

Ans.      The decision of the court pertaining to cases dealing with the subject matter shall vary according to different facts of the case. If the charges against the medical practitioner are proved and he is convicted, he is liable for punishment of imprisonment of minimum two years but not exceeding five years or be also liable for payment of compensation ranging between AED 200,000 and AED 500,000.


7. What is a “Medical Error” as per law?

Ans.      Article 14 of the Medical Liability Law defines the term ‘Medical Error’. It refers to ‘Medical Error’ as an error occurring due to lack of knowledge in the technical matters which is expected in the profession or due to negligence or not paying due attention. In general terms, it refers to a deviation from the normal course of action which a medical practitioner would have adopted in similar circumstances.


8. Does disclosing the medical condition of the patient to another doctor or a family member without his consent and knowledge, amount to a medical malpractice?

Ans.      The Medical Liability Law explicitly prohibits a doctor from disclosing any confidential information of the patient which he was entrusted with during the course of practice. The exception to the above law being, if the disclosure was made upon the patient’s request or for the best interest of the spouse by informing them in person about the disease. The doctor may also report the matter in order to prevent a criminal act or if he assigned by a judicial authority or an official investigation authority in the State.


9. Will a wrong diagnosis fall within the ambit of medical negligence?

Ans.      In the event where the diagnosis of a patient is wrong, the Ministry of Health holds the authority to cancel the license on grounds of negligence and misconduct.


10. I am an expatriate and prior to arriving at UAE, I was diagnosed for a stomach ailment and prescribed medication by my home country doctor. After five months of stay in the UAE, I suffered a relapse and was clinically examined by a UAE doctor to whom I showed the medical prescription of my home country doctor. The UAE doctor diagnosed me for a different ailment and prescribed medication but did not inform me of the change in diagnosis. Presuming I was suffering from the same ailment, I continued with the medication prescribed earlier by my home country doctor but my health deteriorated.  Please advise whether the UAE doctor should have informed me of the change in my diagnosis thereby advising me against following the prescription of my home country doctor?

Ans.      In such circumstances, the case can be decided for either of the parties. In your defense, the law provides that the physician must inform the patient about his illness and must instruct to strictly adhere to the physician’s prescription and course of treatment. But however, if the patient refuses for any reason whatsoever or fails to follow the medical treatment, the physician shall not be liable for the same.

11. I recently read about a case where the hospital couldn’t diagnose the disease suffered by a child leading to his death. In such circumstances, what is the remedy available to the aggrieved party?

Ans.      After filing the complaint with the relevant authorities, the committee shall review the matter. It shall examine the sequence of events and the child’s previous medical records. After hearing both the parties and evaluating the evidence, the committee shall give its judgment. As the laws relating to medical negligence are vague and liable to be misused, leading to serious implications, the judge must look into the facts of the case in its totality and arrive at his findings of whether or not adequate standard of care was exhibited by the medical practitioner.


12. Would it amount to negligence on part of the hospital if it denies medical treatment to a person on grounds of insufficient funds?

Ans.      Individuals practicing medicine in the UAE shall perform their duties accurately, honesty and in accordance with the recognized scientific and technical principles to provide the necessary care for patients, in addition they shall not make use of the patients’ needs for illegal benefit to themselves or others and without discrimination between patients. (Article 3)


13. I was diagnosed for an infection and was assigned a lady gynecologist. On the day of my follow up, the lady doctor wasn’t available and I was instructed to see another doctor. I resented this due to the fact that he was a male physician and I felt uncomfortable the whole time. My question to you is, whether I had a right to object to being examined by a doctor of an opposite gender?

Ans.      Yes, you have the right under the Medical Liability Law to ask for a doctor of the same gender. It has been elaborated under Article 5 (clause 6) which affirms that the patient shall not be examined by a doctor from an opposite gender, without the presence of a third person and without attaining a prior consent of the patient.


14. What are the provisions governing emergency surgeries? I have a close friend whose fetus was aborted without her consent when she came in as an accident case?

Ans.      In emergency situations, the doctor has to first try and obtain the consent of the patient or her husband. But if it is impossible in the given situation, the physicians are instructed to prepare a report stating the abortion justifications. This report has to be signed by the patient and her husband or her guardian. The concerned parties shall also be given the copy of the report. However, the consent of the husband is not necessary in emergency cases where an immediate surgery is required.