Good Samaritan principles in the UAE

Law(Image source: Stock Adobe)How one should respond to an emergency situation in the workplace is a question asked daily in workplaces across the UAE, and which our clients are increasingly asking Clyde & Co

"Should I help or wait for the police / ambulance?"

"Can I be prosecuted if I administer first-aid and the injured dies?"

"Can I be prosecuted if I do not administer first-aid?"

Clyde & Co previously published the below article to address these questions and provide a practical guide to those facing these decisions in the course of their employment. At the date of this publication no "Good Samaritan" law exists in the UAE and so the guidance set out below remains an essential guide for those faced with these challenges

The Good Samaritan principle means a range of different things around the world both in accordance with legislation and custom and practice. It is human nature to want to help another who needs medical assistance, but in today’s society, there is understandable concern that individuals who attempt to help another may be at risk of having a claim brought against them if that person suffers harm as a result of their intervention.

The following update discusses whether a Good Samaritan principle is applied in the UAE, both from the perspective of rescuers and safety officers.

There is often confusion as to what the legal liability will be in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) when a person administers first aid, and what, if any, the legal consequences will be in the event the injured person dies as result of their injuries. In this legal update, we address the following three points, in accordance with UAE Law and Shariah Law:

• Is the concept of a Good Samaritan recognised within the UAE?

• Can a person who administers first aid be held legally accountable for any subsequent injuries, and or causing death in the event the injured person dies?

• What is the recommended approach for the delivery of first aid in the UAE?

2. Good Samaritan principle

While the origins of the Good Samaritan principle are based on a religious parable, over time it has developed to include rescuers and first aid officers administering first aid in the aftermath of an emergency. Various authorities around the world have established legal precedent where the law does not require a member of the public to act as would a Good Samaritan. However, if a person chooses to do so then, in most jurisdictions, the law offers protection to the Good Samaritan from civil compensation claims and/or criminal cases, except to the extent that their own acts caused damage beyond that which the injured would have suffered if the Good Samaritan had not intervened.

Within the UAE, it is often asked whether or not an individual will be held legally liable (and face imprisonment and/or civil responsibility for the payment of diya or arsh) for contributing to someone’s death or injuries if they have provided assistance to that injured person. So while it is human nature to want to help another who needs assistance, in today’s society, there is understandable concern that individuals who attempt to help another may be at risk of having a claim brought against them if that person suffers harm as a result of the intervention. Understanding how the UAE law treats individuals who offer first aid (either in their professional capacity or in rescue circumstances) is important.

3. UAE Law considerations

The UAE does not have a stand-alone Good Samaritan law, unlike other jurisdictions. Over the past few years, there have been news reports of a draft law under consideration, but as at the date of this article, no such law has been published. If a Good Samaritan law was to be enacted in the UAE, it would be the first of its kind in the GCC.

Typically, the key provision contained in Good Samaritan laws provides legal immunity for those individuals that administer first aid in a rescue situation, when they themselves acted in good faith and without remuneration. Of course, other considerations include the informed consent, parental rights and the right of the victim to refuse treatment. In the UAE, pursuant to articles 342 and 343 of the Penal Code (Federal Law No. (3) of 1987 as amended) (Penal Code), a person may be punished if they cause the death or injury of another person. In accordance with the Penal Code, causation can attach where the person “refrained, at that moment, from helping the victim… in spite of the fact that he was capable of doing so” or “if the crime was committed as a result of the offender’s failure to perform the duties imposed on him in the performance of his function, profession or craft…”.

However, pursuant to article 53(2) of the Penal Code, no crime is committed where medical treatment is performed in accordance with generally accepted scientific principles and with the express or implied consent of the patient, or if medical interference is required in emergency cases. Therefore, no criminal liability will attach to an individual performing first aid in a rescuer situation, as long as the conditions of article 53 of the Penal Code are met.

4. Shariah Law considerations

Based upon a Fatwa authored by the Official Iftaa Centre, General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments on First Aid Procedures in 2010 (First Aid Fatwa), first aid must be administered by all people in accordance with Shariah Law.

The Fatwa states (as translated): “Islamic Shariah is based upon the five necessities, one of which concerns the preservation of one’s life and property. Therefore, the provision of first aid can be seen as both an Islamic duty and a humanitarian necessity, as the first-aid is administered to save people’s lives and relieve their pain. Any trained medical person, particularly in emergency situations, ‘do their best efforts’ to prove immediate relief, and this is supported by the general provisions of Shariah that call for co-operation, helping the needy and relieving inflicted people.” Therefore, in accordance with the Fatwa, no criminal liability will attach to an individual, in respect of both Shariah law and UAE law when they perform first-aid. The opposite is true; those that do not assist when they witness a person suffering can be held criminally accountable.

Look out for the full story in upcoming issue of Health Safety Security Review Middle East.

Alain Charles Publishing, University House, 11-13 Lower Grosvenor Place, London, SW1W 0EX, UK
T: +44 20 7834 7676, F: +44 20 7973 0076, W:

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