UAE defines how a person will be declared ‘dead’

Ministry of Health and Prevention issues decree on declaration of death

ABU DHABI 16 May 2017: Dr. Abdul Rahman bin Mohammad bin Nasser Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, has issued Ministerial Decree No. 550 of 2017 on the declaration of death.

The decree covers three main provisions, namely death arising from cardiac-respiratory arrest, death resulting from complete loss of brain functions, and paediatric brain death guidelines.

Dr. Amin Hussein Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary for the Ministry’s Public Health Policy and Licensing sector, emphasised that the UAE is keeping abreast of the latest developments in global health legislations and international health standards and is modernising the state health legislative initiatives to improve local services according to global standards.

Dr. Al Amiri said that the recently issued ministerial decree complements the national programme for organ transplantation as embodied in Federal Law No. 05 of 2016, that excludes stem cells, blood cells and bone marrow transplants.

“It is a sustainable health solution, especially for individuals who have cancer, heart disease, pulmonary failure, hepatic fibrosis, and kidney failure,” he added while reiterating the UAE’s commitment to criminalise illegal organ transplant procedures that violate human dignity.

After studying similar regional and global cases, a national committee composed of local health authorities prepared the latest resolution in consultation with the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments.

Brain Dead

The decree was made in response to the urgent need to enact legislation on the declaration of death in a bid to protect hospitals and enable doctors to stop the suffering of brain-dead patients. The question of clinical death is a medical and legal problem, while the issue of organ transplants has raised vital ethical matters such as the clear definition of death and the timing and manner of authorising the transplant procedures.

“As for patients diagnosed with kidney and liver failures, among others, will go abroad to seek organ transplants. Out of desperation, however, they fall prey on false promises of non-specialised centres, especially those located in some Asian countries. Worse, they might become infected with AIDS and viral hepatitis as a result of the fraudulent procedure. The ministerial resolution,” he said, “will protect UAE patients from becoming victims.”

Moreover, the resolution aims to help contribute to the enhancement of the country’s medical tourism. Significant investments are expected to pour into the country with the opening of new international centres specialising in organ transplants. It also allows the establishment of a national organ bank and a database to record all individuals who signify their wish to donate their organs upon their deaths.

Social Awareness

“Our role is to spread this culture and the importance of social and educational awareness within this context. We also hope to establish an environment where people will be motivated to donate their organs to help thousands of patients in need of transplants, reduce the burden on hospitals, lessen the costs on the state and society, and urge insurance companies to cover organ transplants,” Al Amiri continued.

He explained that organ transplants would take place only in accredited public and private hospitals with Ministry-approved standards and prior approval of competent authorities to ensure patient safety and implementation of correct procedures.

Dr. Al Amiri also noted that the decree differentiates between the declaration of death resulting from cardio-respiratory arrest and death resulting from complete loss of brain functions. This serves as a guide to hospitals, in particular for those with intensive care units.

The decree also explained the conditions and exceptions for the declaration of brain death, including proper diagnosis through clinical preliminary examination, then the brain reflexes test with the visual response to light. It also covers the observation period, or intervals between clinical tests, and protocols.

By AngelChan