Federal Law No (10) of 2023 on Mental Health (‘FD 10/23’) updates and improves the Mental Health Law which has been on the statute books since 1981.
When FD 10/23 comes into force just before the summer it will update and reinforce the rights of mental health patients (‘MHPs’) – particularly in instances of compulsory admissions -in the private and public sectors and introduces a new supervising committee for Mental Health Services – The Control and Follow-up Committee (‘the CFC’) – in each Health Authority. The exact composition and rules of the CFC are to be promulgated before the end of the year although its competencies focus on, inter alia, the supervision, regulation and compliance of Mental Health Facilities and their management of the treatment of MHPs- particularly in respect of Compulsory Admissions and Compulsory Treatment and – importantly-decide upon the treatment of Mental Health Patients who have been compulsorily admitted but have refused treatment.
The CFC will also supervise and act as an appeal/review body of the decisions of the new Patients’ Rights Committees (‘the PRCs’) which are to be created within Mental Health Facilities and manned by various mental health professionals working within that facility. Again, the procedural rules shall be promulgated before the end of the year but the PRCs shall be competent to ensure that MHPs’ rights are being respected and to hear complaints from MHPs or their representatives. The PRCs are required to submit regular reports to the CFC.
The PRCs decisions on MHPs complaints may be appealed by the Patient or the Medical Director of the Facility. The CFC is required to give a decision within six working days. It remains to be seen if FD 10/23 carves out the jurisdiction of the Medical Liability Committees and the Higher Committee of Medical Liability to hear and adjudicate upon medical errors committed by Mental Health Facility staff. Let’s wait and see.
FD 10/23 is a remarkable development as it appears to provide quasi- judicial powers upon the PRCs – albeit under the supervision of the CFC- and it remains to be seen what steps Mental Health Facilities take to get ready to take on this function.
FD 10/23 also provides stiff penalties – including substantial fines and imprisonment- for those who intentionally provide inaccurate information intended to either have a person admitted or discharged for a Mental Health Facility or – in bad faith- causes a person to be admitted contrary to the law. Any person in charge of guarding and/or taking care and/or treating any MHP who intentionally mistreats or neglects that person could face jail for up to one year and a fine of not less than AED 50,000 and not exceeding AED 100,000. If the mistreatment or neglect causes serious injury or physical disability of the MHP then the jail term is increased to a minimum of one year and/or a fine of between AED 100,000 and AED 200,000. In case of recidivism the penalties are doubled. These penalties stand in addition to liability for any regulatory breaches of medical professionals provided for elsewhere or civil liability pursuant to the general law.
These penalties don’t just apply to Mental Heath Facilities or medical professionals but also appear to extend to family members or non-medical professionals – in any event- the writing on the wall is clear- make sure that those suffering from mental health conditions are adequately cared for and receive the respect that they deserve- or face the consequences.
Author: Stephen Ballantine