UAE: Up to Dh200,000 fine, imprisonment for violating new mental health law

A dedicated monitoring committee will be established in each emirate with the specific purpose of safeguarding the rights of patients

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Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File
Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File

Published: Wed 20 Dec 2023, 6:51 PM

Last updated: Thu 21 Dec 2023, 8:57 AM

The UAE Government on Wednesday issued a Federal Law on mental health with a spectrum of penalties for offenders of its regulations and provisions, including imprisonment and a fine of not less than Dh50,000 and not more than Dh200,000.

The new law aligns with the latest practices and advancement in the mental healthcare landscape and secures the rights of psychiatric patients and ensures the provision of best physical and mental care.

The law aims to regulate the relation between the psychiatric patients and each of the parties dealing with them, as well as providing the necessary health care in accordance with the best standards and practices.

Additionally, the new law aims to preserve the rights and dignity of the psychiatric patient, and to significantly reduce the negative effects of mental conditions on them, their families and the society, in addition to promoting their social integration.

The law applies to all matters relating to mental health, as well as the psychiatric patient, the mental health facilities and any other institutions in the country concerned with the patient's psychiatric care, including those based in free zones. It also redefines mental health and psychiatric patient in accordance with the latest practices and concepts in mental health field.

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The new legislation prohibits the provision of mental health services without obtaining the permission of the competent authority, in accordance with the provisions of the law.

According to the law, patient’s general rights include receiving full explanation of their rights within the mental health facility, as well as their right to submit grievance and complaint. Furthermore, patient must receive all the care and treatments needed in an appropriate environment that retains their civil rights.

Patient's rights

The law preserves the patient's right to retain their job without any restrictions, and protects them from any emotional, physical or sexual exploitation. In addition, the law ensures the confidentiality of all patient’s information and the measures taken to safeguard it, as well as protects their personal belongings at the mental health care facility.

The law outlines the frameworks for the mental and social care plan for patients upon their discharge from the facility; obtaining a medical insurance according to the legislation in force; facilitating access to education and recreational activities; and choosing representatives to advocate on their behalf both within and beyond the mental health care facility.

The law guarantees patient’s access to psychotherapy and psychiatric medications in accordance with established medical principles. Clinical observations, treatment plans, goals and risks must be explained to the patient including benefits and side effects, time scale, and recommended intervention in case of crisis or emergency.

According to the new federal decree, minor psychiatric patients will benefit from special health guarantees considering their age and psychological condition. This includes the right to education; any procedure should be preceded by the preparation of a social worker or psychologist; as well as ensuring an accommodation that is separate from adults' places. Furthermore, the law ensures implementing age-specific health safeguards that consider the minor patient's age group and align with their best interests.

According to the law, a dedicated monitoring committee to be established in each emirate with the specific purpose of safeguarding the rights of psychiatric patients; as well as a dedicated committee within each health facility, to ensure the protection of patients' rights.

The monitoring committees in each emirate, will be responsible for following up on reports from mental health establishments concerning compulsory admissions of patients; supervising mental health care facilities and verifying their commitment to implement the standards and procedures mentioned in the decree; it will also review reports of the patients' rights committee of the emirate, and address complaints, grievances and objections.

The patients' rights committee of each emirate will be responsible for protecting the psychiatric patient's rights, receiving complaints from psychiatric patients and taking all necessary measures and actions to resolve it.

The new law defines the types of admission to the mental healthcare facility. It established a number of regulations relating to voluntary admission for the purpose of treatment of substance or psychotropic substances, the obligations of the mental health facility in case of the escape of the patient or their death within the facility.

The new legislation defines cases of psychological restraint, isolation and transfer of the patient within and outside the country, as well as the cases in which the patient is subject to compulsory outpatient treatment.

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