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In Some Countries A Medical Mistake Can Lead To Prison Time

In the United States, patients who are injured due to a medical mistake may take legal action against the doctor responsible. Injured patients can file a personal injury lawsuit for damages suffered as a result of the medical error. If a patient dies after a medical error, their family may be able to file a wrongful death claim against those responsible. However, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), some malpractice cases lead to criminal charges.

With a growing number of medical negligence cases in the UAE, health authorities are taking a serious look at the problem. In 2013, there were more than 500 medical complaints filed against doctors, hospitals, and clinics, primarily in Dubai, the UAE’s largest city. The Arab Health Congress looked at the issue, and how the law is applied to doctors when a medical error occurs.

According to an article on the rise of medical complaints in Dubai, injured patients have three different ways to pursue a claim after a medical error. They can file a civil claim in through the Dubai court system, they can file a complaint with the Dubai Police Department or prosecutor’s office, or they can file a complaint with the Dubai Health Authority.

Stephen Ballantine, a senior associate in Dubai calls medical malpractice in the UAE a massive problem. “The real difference between the UAE and anywhere else is not so much the civil side, nor the regulators of the profession, it is the criminal side, which I think most physicians are worried about,” Ballantine said, hosting a mock trial for medical professionals. “In the UAE, medical malpractice leading to permanent disability or death is a crime as well as a civil wrong.”

Doctors facing the potential of criminal charges may be less willing to report adverse events for fear that they may go to prison for a medical error. “Why would somebody report an incident he could go to jail for? Why would I expose myself to that kind of criminal investigation?” said Ballantine.

Medical errors in Dubai are similar to those that occur in the United States and around the world. A number of malpractice cases involve delayed diagnosis, birth injuries, drug treatment mistakes, failure to diagnose cancer, uninformed consent, and fatigue leading to surgical errors. Injuries can range from minor to serious and permanent injuries, or even death.

If the mistake is serious enough, the state prosecutor can pursue a criminal case against a negligent doctor. Medical negligence can result in a year in prison and fines, in addition to any court judgment awarded to the victims. If a patient dies as the result of the medical mistake, the doctor could face two years in prison. If the doctor’s negligence was related to the use of alcohol or drugs, the penalty could be increased to 5 years imprisonment.

If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a medical mistake, the Gilman & Bedigian team is fully equipped to handle the complex process of filing a malpractice claim. Our staff, including a physician and attorneys with decades of malpractice litigation experience, will focus on getting you compensated, so you can focus on healing and moving forward.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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