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New UAE law bans mercy killing, human cloning

Legislation lays down rules for research, artificial organ implants, infertility and transgender issues

Image Credit: Agency
The law permits natural death to take its course by withholding cardiopulmonary resuscitation or advanced cardiac life support in case of terminal illness.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: An outright ban is imposed on mercy killing for whatever reason and even with a dying patient’s consent or as requested by his/her guardians or relatives, a new UAE law states.

The Medical Responsibility Law decreed in August by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan incriminates switching off life-support machines unless in the case of respiratory arrest (the complete cessation of breathing) and cardiac arrest (the sudden stop in effective blood flow due to the failure of the heart to contract effectively), or brain death (the complete and irreversible loss of brain functions).

Violators will face ten years in jail, according to the legislation, which takes effect immediately.

Mercy killing (also referred to as euthanasia) is when someone directly ends another person’s life, because they believe it is in their best interests in order to relieve pain and suffering from an incurable or terminal condition.

The law permits natural death to take its course by withholding cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) in case the patient is suffering from an incurable terminal illness, if all treatments have failed or if at least three specialist doctors advise that it is for the good of the patient. Consent of the patient or his/her guardian or relatives is not needed in such a case.

However, the law prohibits withholding cardiopulmonary resuscitation against the will of the patients who clearly request CPR, even if resuscitation is of no use.

The law also bans human cloning and research meant to create a genetically identical copy of a human or the reproduction of human cells and tissue.

The law also bars using human beings as medical (clinical) research subjects without written approval from authorities.

Violators of this article will face a prison term of at least six months, or a fine ranging between Dh100,000 and Dh200,000 or both.

The law permits implanting or integrating artificial organs into a human — interfacing with living tissue — to replace a natural organ, for the purpose of duplicating or augmenting a specific function or a group of related functions so the patient may return to a normal life as soon as possible, provided that these man-made devices are suitable for the patients, cause no harm to them and their bodies are prepared to accept them.

If a couple finds it difficult to conceive naturally, the law gives them the option of trying medically assisted reproduction or biological procedures to treat infertility, provided that only legally tied couples can undergo artificial insemination or in vitro fertilisation (IVF) after signing and submitting a declaration consenting to undergo medically assisted reproduction before starting any treatment.

Birth control which allows couples to plan the timing of pregnancy is only permitted with the consent of the couples. Preventing pregnancy, however, can only be permitted if advised by at least three specialist doctors that pregnancy and giving birth endanger the life of the mother and after a written consent from the wife and informing the husband.

Abortion or termination of pregnancy is banned unless the pregnancy is putting the mother’s life in real and certain danger and other methods to save the life of the mother are exhausted.

Termination of pregnancy is also permitted due to incurable fetal abnormality, provided that abortion is requested by the couples, pregnancy is less than 120 days, fetal abnormality is proven by gynecologists, paediatrics and medical imaging specialists.

The law exempts doctors from medical liability if harm to a patient is self-inflicted, a result of rejecting to take medicines or failure to heed medical instructions.

Doctors will not be liable to prosecution if the treatment or the method adopted is in keeping with recognised medical standards, according to the law.

Doctors are prohibited from treating patients without their consent unless in emergency cases that require urgent intervention and if informed consent by the patient is impossible.

Doctors are not permitted to uncover patients’ secrets unless this is done with consent of the patient, if it is for the good of the wife or husband, provided that the secret is informed to either of them in person.

Doctors are also permitted to share secrets if it is meant to prevent a crime from taking place or reporting it or if the doctor is assigned by the judicial authority to give expert testimony.

The law also allows gender reassignment surgery or the surgical procedure (or procedures) by which a transgender person’s physical appearance and function of their existing sexual characteristics are altered to resemble that of their identified gender if it is part of a treatment for gender dysphoria in transgender people, as advised by a medical commission to be set up for this purpose.

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