Doctors let quadriplegic patient die, prosecutors say
DUBAI // A hospital doctor caused a critically ill patient to have a heart attack by switching off his life support and increasing his morphine dose, and ordered medical staff not to resuscitate him, a court was told yesterday.
Dr E?A, 50, from Austria, head of the intensive care unit at Rashid Hospital in Dubai, and Dr M?A, 49, from India, are accused of murdering Ghulam Mohammed at the hospital's trauma centre in February 2009.
They denied the charges before Judge Fahmy Mounir Fahmy at Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance, but have not yet offered a defence in court.
Mr Mohammed, a quadriplegic, was in a critical condition and needed continuous monitoring because of chronic heart complications.
Prosecutors say that two days before the patient died, E?A issued orders to his staff that he was not be resuscitated if he suffered a heart attack.
On February 21, 2009, he shut down Mr Mohammed's life-support equipment and increased his morphine dose, which caused a fatal heart attack, prosecutors say.
M?A was the attending doctor at the unit that day and, according to prosecutors, refused to resuscitate Mr Mohammed after the heart attack.
A Filipina nurse, A?T, 49 told prosecutors E?A ordered her to remove an oxygen-monitoring device that helped to keep Mr Mohammed alive.
"He told me not to perform any CPR and remove the oxygen-monitoring system, which is needed to check the oxygen levels in his blood," the nurse said.
Members of the ICU team told prosecutors they refused to follow E?A's instructions and repeatedly argued with him about his decision.
"We were verbally ordered by E?A not to resuscitate the patient and one day before his death, he suffered a heart attack, and the attending doctor refused to resuscitate him. But I intervened and performed CPR to revive him," said Y?M, 50, a Syrian.
A Pakistani ICU nurse, A?N, 40, said that when he reported for his shift on February 21 he was told that if Mr Mohammed suffered any complications from the heart attack, he should not intervene.
"I contacted Dr M?A and informed him. He arrived quickly and told me not intervene," A?N said. "I asked M?A why, and he said that this was the decision taken by them and walked out."
Rashid Hospital set up an investigation committee, which deemed the doctors' actions contradictory to the Dubai Health Authority's regulations.
The committee head, A?M, 50, an Egyptian medical consultant, told prosecutors E?A had violated the code of medical practice.
"The orders, issued verbally and backed up by written instruction, violated the medical practice code followed in Dubai, as the patient was conscious and not clinically dead," he said.
The committee's report also said M?A's actions had violated local and international medical standards in that he had not acted to revive a dying patient. M?A told prosecutors he was acting on his superior's instructions.
The trial will reconvene on August 7.
Euthanasia is illegal under UAE federal law, and doctors are required to revive patients regardless of the patients' wishes. It is also forbidden under Sharia.
Dubai health authorities recently rejected a petition from some local doctors who favour euthanasia. Dubai Health Authority said ending a human life was not permissible.
Updated: July 17, 2011 04:00 AM