x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Guidelines for investigating medical errors softened

Original proposals submitted to the FNC in December threatened doctors with potential criminal charges in cases of medical negligence.

Guidelines for investigating medical errors released yesterday are more lenient than draft proposals submitted to the Federal National Council last year. Under the procedures put out by the Minister of Health, Hanif Hassan, patients will be required to submit all complaints in writing. The statement must include the patient's name, address, phone number and the name of the medical facility where the alleged error occurred. Patients can submit their complaints to the hospital or clinic involved, to the health authority, to the police or to the public prosecutor's office, according to the state news agency, WAM.

Complaints can also be issued on behalf of a patient by a parent, guardian or member of the family. Patients, doctors and nurses have the right to file complaints. Once a complaint has been submitted to a health institution, an internal committee will be set up to investigate. If the committee deems the complaint to be valid, it will be responsible for reporting the error to the health authority.

The guidelines fall far short of earlier suggestions to form a Higher Medical Liability Committee independent of the Ministry of Health to investigate claims of error and malpractice. A draft of stricter proposals was submitted to the FNC in December that threatened doctors with potential criminal charges in cases of medical negligence. It also suggested that independent bodies be established in every hospital to examine each death that occurs.

That draft law was widely criticised by doctors for being too vague, and for failing to separate criminal and civil sanctions. Last year, the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi introduced a new complaints process stipulating that accusations of medical malpractice and error be sent overseas to be reviewed by independent doctors. jgerson@thenational.ae