The UAE Will Become the First Arab Nation to Pass a 'Good Samaritan' Law

The law, which still has to be passed by the Cabinet, will protect people coming to the aid of others from legal repercussions.

Jan 17, 2019

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Helping someone in a medical emergency is a natural reflex and instinct that most people possess. Too often, however, bystanders are too afraid to step in and lend a helping hand, for fear that they may be held responsible should something go wrong. 

That is why countries such as the US, UK, and Germany have introduced so-called Good Samaritan laws, aimed at boosting survival rates by allowing people to offer first aid without fear of legal issues.

The United Arab Emirates are about to become the first Arab nation to pass a similar law after the country's Ministry of Health approved the aptly named "Rescuer Protection Law."

Once the law has been passed by the country's Cabinet, it will allow brave bystanders to practice first aid and CPR under the protection of the law until official assistance arrives.

“There is strong evidence in scientific literature that early bystander intervention dramatically improves survival rates in many emergencies; using cardiac arrest as an example,” Dr. Saleh Fares, head of the emergency medicine division at the Emirates Medical Association (EMA) told The National. He worked very closely with the ministry on the draft law.

At present, there are no laws that protect bystanders, and the police have said that it is an offense to aid without being trained in first aid.

This is a genuine concern since there have been cases in the UAE where bystanders who tried to help faced arrests and the governments official policy has been to publicize that people were not allowed to get involved. According to Fares, it took a long time for the bill to be introduced because the government had to be convinced that the benefits of the law outweighed the risks.

"Currently, around 70-90 per cent of the people hesitate in getting involved due to the fear of being caught up in medico-legal procedures," he told The National.

Fares stressed that the first few minutes are important in saving lives and that, "If help is provided in the initial minutes of an emergency, it can make a big difference in a life or death situation."

Right now, cardiac survival rates in the UAE are between 4–13 percent outside of hospitals, according to Fares. “So in a simple language, out of 10 people who suffer cardiac arrest, we only save one, while we can save over six people if we have this law and encourage the community to start the CPR immediately."

Doing CPR, opening an airway to allow people to breathe or stopping bleeding makes a big difference in the survivability of patients. "We want people to get involved and not to be scared to help others who are in an emergency and genuinely need help."

The draft law has to be green-lighted by the ministry that will then send it to the cabinet to approve. “We are working hard to get this law approved this year,” said. The UAE will be the first Arab country to implement a rescuer protection law.

The Law does not mandate that a bystander has to act, it remains optional but now potential Good Samaritans will be free to offer life-saving help without the fear of prosecution. This will be a big win to the people of the UAE.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.

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