Doctors raise ethics questions to judicial panel

At a seminar held by the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, the doctors’ questions included what to do when patients with certain religious convictions refuse blood transfusions, and when a patient’s relatives ask doctors not to reveal his illness to him.

ABU DHABI // A group of doctors on Tuesday questioned judicial officials about ethical and legal dilemmas that they faced with their patients.

At a seminar held by the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, the doctors’ questions included what to do when patients with certain religious convictions refuse blood transfusions, and when a patient’s relatives ask doctors not to reveal his illness to him.

“Some patients could be in a critical situation and I need to transfer blood to them, but they refuse because of their religious beliefs,” said Dr Kawthar Al Ameri, from Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

“Legally, I require the patient’s consent before conducting a procedure. In that case I am torn between saving the patient and facing legal charges.”

Chief Justice Adel Yaqoub, of the Abu Dhabi Misdemeanours Court, said that securing the patient’s consent was necessary unless it was a matter of life or death.

“If the transfusion or procedure is necessary to save their life, then the doctor must go through with it,” Chief Justice Yaqoub said.

Doctors should also not confuse the patient’s privacy with their legal obligation to report to the authorities their patients’ medical conditions when related to criminal activity.

Dr Al Ameri also asked about single patients seeking treatment for stomach pains and were found to be pregnant.

“Do we report it or protect the patient’s confidentiality?” she asked.

Abdullah Al Nuaimi, head of prosecution in Abu Dhabi, replied: “If the doctor does not report the offence and it is later discovered, the doctor will be questioned by police.”

Mr Al Nuaimi also said it was compulsory to inform a patient about his illness to ensure that he took his medicine and treatment seriously.

In the operating room, specialists who administer anaesthesia were prone to errors.

“There are no figures for the most prominent medical errors,” said prosecutor Dr Husni Dyab. “But according to the health authority, there is more risk of error during anaesthesia than during surgery.”

As for patients who seek to sue doctors, they have to prove that the doctor erred by not making enough effort and not following all the standard medical procedures.

“For instance, during birth the doctor has to use modern devices,” said Dr Dyab.

If the doctor did not do so and a medical complication arises as a result, “the doctor is considered to have committed an error”.

Prosecutors said accidental injuries and manslaughter were the most common medical cases they encountered.

hdajani@thenational.ae