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UAE’s mental health laws prioritize care and patient choice

The law seeks to govern the interactions between psychiatric patients and all involved parties.

UAE’s mental health laws prioritize care and patient choice
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

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The UAE government prioritizes the well-being of its citizens and is not single-mindedly focused on the country’s economic growth.

Addressing overlooked aspects of mental wellness, the country has unveiled a comprehensive Federal Law on mental health, which aims not only to regulate interactions between patients and healthcare providers but also to elevate the standard of care and empower individuals on their journey to recovery.

The law encompasses all aspects of mental health care, from the patients to the facilities and institutions serving them, even in free zones.

The law safeguards patients from emotional, physical, or sexual exploitation and ensures the confidentiality of their medical information. Additionally, it protects their personal belongings and prohibits any restrictions on their right to employment.

Patients are also to receive full explanations of their rights, access to grievance procedures, and the right to be treated in a nurturing environment that respects their civil liberties.

Upon discharge, the law outlines a comprehensive care plan, facilitates medical insurance acquisition, supports access to education and recreational activities, and allows patient representation within and beyond the facility.

It also guarantees access to psychotherapy and psychiatric medications adhering to medical principles, requiring full disclosure of treatment details, benefits, risks, and crisis intervention protocols.

The law mandates the establishment of dedicated monitoring committees in each emirate and within health facilities. Emirate committees will oversee reports from mental health establishments, supervise facilities’ adherence to standards, and address patient complaints. 

Meanwhile, the patient’s rights committees at the emirate level will safeguard patients’ rights, handle complaints, and take necessary actions for resolution.

The law also covers facility obligations in cases of patient escape or death. Additionally, it specifies psychological restraint, isolation, patient transfer within or outside the country, and instances requiring compulsory outpatient treatment.

The law enforces a range of penalties for violators, including imprisonment and fines ranging from approximately $13,600 to $54,400.

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