Medical Malpractice Litigation in the U.A.E.
Federal Law no. 10 of 2008 on Medical Liability regulates medical liability in the United Arab Emirates. Article 15 of the Federal Law no. 10 of 2008 establishes the High Committee on Medical Liability (the “Committee”) and it is made up of consultant physicians selected by the Cabinet.
“The Committee members are from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice, Health Authority Abu Dhabi, Health Authority Dubai, a professor from the School of Medicine, Armed Forces Medical Services Directorate, Ministry of the Interior Medical Services Directorate, Emirates Medical Association and the private medical sector.”
The Committee serves as a body of medical experts and it provides its opinions upon the request of the public prosecution office, a competent court or a medical body. The Committee’s report should address whether a medical error and harm had occurred and causation between the culpable act and harm.
Looking at the composition of the Committee and how it is established and appointed by the Cabinet, gives the indication that the Committee shall provide a holistic and accurate medical opinion. It also brands the Committee as the most legitimate source of medical opinion since it was established by a federal law, unlike other experts who are appointed by the courts.
This cloak of legitimacy given to the Committee, in my opinion, led various judges to consider the Committee’s reports as the authority on the subject matter and should override any other report.
Appeal no. 48-63-70/2013 (The U.A.E. Supreme Court)
This case involves charges filed against a gynecologist for medical malpractice which was filed before the competent criminal court and the court of first instance in Abu Dhabi.
The court of first instance requested the Committee to provide a report on the facts of the case. The Committee’s report concluded that the gynecologist had committed medical malpractice. In the meantime, the gynecologist submited three expert opinion reports prepared by the head of medical liability department in the Ministry of Health, the Medical Committee of Dubai Health Authority and a medical consultant. All three reports concluded that the report submitted by the Committee was inaccurate and there was no medical malpractice committed by the Respondent. Furthermore, the three reports concluded that the harm caused to the claimant was established medical complications in the medical community.
However, the court of first instance relied on the Committee’s report and ignored reports submitted by the gynecologist and ruled that the gynecologist had committed medical malpractice and decided to compensate the Claimant (the patient) for damages. The court of appeal affirmed the first instance court’s ruling and the gynecologist appealed the court’s ruling. The case was heard by the Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi.
The Supreme Court explained that the Committee is merely a body of experts in the medical profession and its opinion should be treated by the court as any other expert opinion report.
The Supreme Court also added that relying only on the Committee’s report and ignoring other reports submitted by the gynecologist is an error in examining evidence. Furthermore, the Supreme Court pointed out that a report submitted by the Committee should not be considered as exclusive evidence. This means that a court should not dismiss other expert reports submitted by one party to the litigation just because such reports contradict the conclusions in the Committee’s report.
In conclusion, the Supreme Court of the United Arab Emirates set an important precedent in that a committee established by law, such as the High Committee on Medical Liability, should not viewed as the supreme authority and should not override other reports in weighing evidence in a court of law.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Mohamed Karbal
Dr. Mohamed Karbal served for seven years as the General Counsel for Abu Dhabi Health Authority. He is a New York lawyer and founder of Karbal & Co, a full-service international law firm with offices in Dubai and Libya that serve the needs of businesses and governments of Libya and the United Arab Emirates.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.