Dubai: There are clearly-defined procedures for redressal of complaints related to medical liability in the UAE.
The Executive Decree of the Medical Liability Federal Law No (4) 2016, approved by the UAE cabinet last week, states that complaints will be addressed by a special committee of the respective health authority, with the decision of a Supreme Medical Liability Committee considered final in the event of an appeal, an official explained.
Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive interview on the subject, Dr Lubna Ali Al Shaali, Director of Public Health Policies at the Ministry of Health and Prevention, said: “All complaints related to medical liability incidents should be forwarded to the concerned health authority, in accordance with the regulations defined within the Executive Decree.
"The health authority should hence forward the complaints to the Committee of Medical Liability referred to in the Medical Liability Law, and the committee then should prepare a justification report for each case, stating its opinion relying on investigation, study of medical record, technical examination, other evidences and discussions.”
She added: “In case of appeal, the Supreme Medical Liability Committee may support the report or reject the complaint, amend or cancel it, and its decision is considered final and cannot be appealed upon in front of any other authority.”
Dr Al Shaali said the Committee of Medical Liability should submit its report within a period of 30 days from the time the complaint was received.
“This period can be renewed based on the committee’s request for a same time period or more with the approval of the health authority. The complainant and practitioner complained against him may appeal against the Committee on Medical Liability report and submit grievances to the concerned health authority within 30 days from the date of legal notification with the report conclusion reached as per the Executive Decree.”
She said the concerned health authority should forward the report and related documents to appeal to the Supreme Committee for Medical Liability.
“The report of the Supreme Committee shall be considered final if it is not appealed within the time limit specified, and thereafter no further appeal should be considered in front of any authority.”
She said the Executive Decree will come into effect as soon as it gets published officially in the National Gazette of the UAE.
“The aim of the Executive Decree is to supplement, support and detail the development of a legal framework for the practice of health care professions in UAE to ensure and define the rights and duties of practitioners and at the same time ensure the rights of patients / health care receivers through precise and clear rules and regulations. It also identifies methods and procedures in the event of a disagreement or dispute between the health care provider and the patient and events of breach,”
The law and its Executive Decree also regulate the civil and penal liabilities for health care professionals if a medical error is established.
Any person violating any of the provisions of the articles of the law or Executive Decree shall be liable for different types of penalties, including monetary penalties, imprisonment, or disciplinary penalties according to the breach. The disciplinary penalties provided under the law shall be applied to violations, which has no penalty provided under the Law. The criminal liability resulting from this law shall not prejudice the disciplinary penalties of the violating practitioners.
“Any person violating any of the provisions of the articles of the law or Executive Decree shall be liable for different types of penalties, including monetary penalties, imprisonment, or disciplinary penalties according to the breach. The disciplinary penalties provided under the law shall be applied to violations, which has no penalty provided under the Law. The criminal liability resulting from this law shall not prejudice the disciplinary penalties of the violating practitioners,” said Dr Al Shaali.
With the decree also covering remote medical services, Dr Al Shaali said health authorities may develop a system to provide tele-health services in accordance with the terms and regulations determined by the decree which include tele-diagnosis, tele-consultation, tele-prescription, tele- health monitoring and remote medical intervention.
The Executive Decree specifies the conditions, terms and controls for the provision of health services remotely (tele-health), she said, adding that the work system adopted must be responsive to monitoring and reporting the quality and safety of performance measures, as well as the privacy of patients and confidentiality of data.
When is a medical error committed?
Medical error in the regulation is stipulated as one that is committed by a professional practitioner as a result of any of the following reasons:
1. Ignorance of technical matters associated with the specialisation
2. Not following the accepted professional and medical standards
3. Lack of exertion of the required care
4. Negligence and lack of caution
(The Executive Decree defines the criteria of major (profound) medical errors in more detail, when profound harm is caused to the patient.
How is an error established?
According to Dr Lubna Al Shaali, an expert committee composed of speciality physicians in all medical specialities, called the “Committee for Medical Liability” is the sole responsible body to examine complaints referred to it by the health authority or the public prosecutor or the court and report the extent of the occurrence of medical error. “In the case of multiple responsibility, determination of rate of liability by all those who are liable for this medical error, the committee specifies its causes, and the harm that occurred, and the causality relationship between error and harm and the proportion of the deficit in the organ affected if any. The committee might also decide to call experts fit to carry out its functions in some cases.”