A Saudi Arabian newspaper recently reported that the number of medical malpractice complaints filed in Saudi Arabia against medical practitioners by patients and their relatives increased by 37%, from 2,002 in 2011 to 3,178 in 2016.
The Saudi Arabia legal health committees that handle medical malpractice complaints in Saudi Arabia held 4,282 sessions during the five-year period and issued 557 verdicts against the Health Ministry and 437 verdicts against private hospitals. Of the 1,097 medical malpractice verdicts issued by the legal health committees, 408 were for medical mistakes that resulted in death and 134 were for violating private rights. Seven of the medical malpractice verdicts were issued against health practitioners at university hospitals, 75 of the verdicts were issued against doctors at military hospitals, and 21 verdicts were against workers at other health institutions. The medical malpractice defendants were asked to pay compensation to plaintiffs for causing handicaps in 106 of the verdicts.
It was reported that as many as 2,166 health practitioners were charged with committing medical mistakes, which included 440 Saudis and 1,726 expats (115 Saudis and 582 expats were “convicted” of committing various medical mistakes; 470 were men and 227 were women). The largest number of medical malpractice complaints were filed against doctors (1,915, of which 611 were convicted of making medical malpractice mistakes), followed by 219 filed against nurses and 32 filed against technicians.
Of the total number of medical malpractice complaints, 303 were related to claims involving maternity and childcare, 125 were related to internal diseases, 22 were related to urological claims, and the remaining medical malpractice claims involved surgery, neurological operations, pediatric diseases, dental diseases, and ENT claims.
Of the doctors and paramedical staff convicted of committing medical malpractice mistakes in 2016, 115 were from Saudi Arabia, 278 were from Egypt, 77 were from Syria, 44 were from Pakistan, 42 were from India, 37 were from Sudan, 28 were from Jordan, 28 were from the Phillipines, 8 were from Lebanon, 8 were from Palestine, and 30 were from other countries.
2.2% of the 86,000 doctors who practice in Saudi Arabia were charged with committing medical mistakes during the five-year period.
Saudi Arabia Legal System
Saudi Arabia’s legal system is based on the principles of Shariá law that are, in general, applied in a more conservative and strict manner than other countries within the Middle East. Under Sharia law, there is no doctrine of binding precedent or comprehensive reporting of cases. Higher court decisions in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries are persuasive, but not binding. The Sharia Medical Panel considers medical malpractice claims in Saudi Arabia.
Article 34 of the Law of Practising Healthcare Professions sets out that the Sharia Medical Panel shall have the following jurisdiction:
- Consider claims of medical malpractice in cases brought before it regarding private rights (“diyah”, indemnity or compensation.)
- Consider cases of medical malpractice leading to death, damage of an organ or loss of total or partial use thereof, even in the absence of a claim for a private right.
While an investigation is ongoing, expat doctors who are the subject of an investigation may be banned from leaving the country. Medical malpractice claims in Saudi Arabia are heard before a judge – there are no jury trials in Saudi Arabia. Decisions from the Sharia Medical Panel may be appealed before the Board of Grievances within sixty days from the date of notification of the decision. An appeal can involve a total re-hearing of the matter and new evidence may be adduced.
If you or a loved one were seriously harmed as a result of medical negligence in the United States, you should promptly find a medical malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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