The UAE’s New Law on Medical Liability

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Published February 2018

Driven by advancements in technology and the evolving needs of the dynamic population of the United Arab Emirates, the UAE’s new law on medical liability clarifies certain grey areas existing in the former law and introduces significant changes to the law on medical liability in the UAE.

Federal Law No. 4 of 2016 on Medical Liability (the New Law) was published on 15th August, 2016 and replaced Federal Law No. 10 of 2008 (the Former Law).   Some of the key new provisions introduced by the New Law are analysed below.

  1. Medical Error

The New Law has introduced a specific definition for the term “Medical Error”. Medical Error has been defined as an error committed by a practitioner due to:

  • ignorance of technical matters that any practitioner of the same degree or specialization would have knowledge of;
  • non-compliance with recognized professional and medical principles;
  • not exercising due diligence; and
  • negligence and not paying attention. 
  1. Gender Reassignment Surgery

The New Law has made “gender reassignment surgery” permissible if certain criteria are met. Gender reassignment will be permitted in cases where a person’s gender is not certain and such person’s physical features are inconsistent with his/her physiological, biological and genetic characteristics. This will need to be proven by medical reports and approved by a specialised medical committee. The medical committee will also refer the patient to a psychologist to assist the patient through the procedure.

Notably, the New Law differentiates “Sex Correction” from “Sex Change”. Sex Change is defined as the changing of the gender of a person whose gender is clear and physical features match his/her physiological, biological and genetic characteristics, and for whom there is no suspicion regarding such person’s gender. Sex Change is still prohibited under the New Law.

  1. Natural Death and DNR

Contrary to the Former Law, the New Law permits medical practitioners to, if certain conditions are met, allow natural death (also known as “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR)) by not performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on patients. These conditions include confirmation that the patient is suffering from an incurable disease, a declaration that all treatments have been pursued and none have brought ease, the attending physician has advised against CPR and that at least three doctors support the patients position of refraining from further treatment.

  1. Medical Malpractice Claims and a New Dispute Redressal System

The New Law provides for the resolution and determination of medical malpractice claims by a Medical Liability Committee (the Committee) which will consist of specialised physicians. The Committee is given the responsibility of examining complaints submitted to it by the courts, public prosecution or any other health authorities. It is required to assess the complaints and determine liability of all the parties involved and submit its report, with reasons, to the relevant authority within 30 days of receiving the referral.  Medical professionals or other parties may challenge this decision within 30 days from the date on which they receive the decision of the Committee.

The New Law also establishes a Medical Liability Supreme Committee (the Supreme Committee) to which any complaints or appeals to the reports and decisions of the Committee may be submitted. The findings of the Supreme Committee are final and cannot be challenged before any authority. Therefore, all complaints (whether of a civil or criminal nature) must first be referred to the Committee and the Committee’s final report is required before any court proceedings can be filed.

In addition, the New Law permits conciliation between the victim and the defendant. However, such conciliation does not bar the victim from compensation under a civil claim.

  1. Medical Insurance for Practitioners:

The New Law takes into account the security and insurance of medical practitioners. The key protections afforded to medical practitioners under the New Law are as follows:

  • arrest or temporary imprisonment of medical practitioners is prohibited by the New Law unless a report issued by the Committee confirms such medical practitioner’s gross medical error;
  • disclosure of medical records of the concerned patient by a medical practitioner is permitted in support of the practitioner’s defense in legal claims; and
  • medical liability insurance shall be mandatorily provided to all practitioners by their institution.


The New Law is an important improvement on the existing system of medical practice in the UAE and generally makes for a much more efficient system of resolving medical disputes. The provisions introduced by the law significantly increase the medical options which are available to patients and protects the rights of medical practitioners practicing in the UAE as well as visiting medical practitioners who provide services in the UAE.




Olabisi Omotunde, Partner (

Devvrat Periwal, Principal Associate ( and Chinar Zaidi, Trainee Lawyer (



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