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22 February 2024

Dubai appeals court acquits doctor of killing quadriplegic patient

Picture for illustrative purpose only.

By Eman Al Baik

The Dubai Court of Appeal has upheld the acquittal of an Indian doctor by the Criminal Court of First Instance of the charge of premeditatedly killing a quadriplegic patient in a government hospital.

The Prosecution had appealed the lower court’s verdict, but the Court of Appeal found him not guilty and upheld the acquittal sentence.

In the same case, the First Instance Court had awarded life-in-jail term in absentia to the 50-year-old Austrian doctor Eugen Adelsmayr  who headed the government hospital’s intensive care unit on the charge of premeditated murder as he refused to revive a patient who had suffered a heart attack. Adelsmayr fled the country after being bailed out by the court.

Both the doctors denied the accusations when they appeared before the First Instance Court.

According to the records, prosecutors said in February 2009, Eugen Adelsmayr, chief medic at Rashid Hospital’s intensive care unit, "allowed a quadriplegic patient, Ghulam Mohammed, to die after (he) shut down his life-support system."

The court said that Adelsmayr had "issued DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)" orders to the staff and then "supervised" its implementation.

MAK, who was doctor on duty when the man had a cardiac seizure, followed the ICU head's directive and allowed the patient to die, according to the records.

Doctors and nurses at the ICU told prosecutors that they were against the ICU head's order since the patient was not brain dead.

An ICU doctor testified that despite the defendant's verbal instructions not to perform CPR, he revived the patient after he suffered a heart attack the night before the incident.

The second defendant refused to revive the patient when he had a seizure the next day which led to his death, prosecutors said.

An ICU consultant who headed a medical committee that was tasked to look into case said their investigation validated claims that the ICU head had indeed issued instructions not to perform CPR on the patient in violation of existing medical rules.

A nurse testified that the ICU head had ordered her to unplug the patient's oxygen monitor. Another nurse testified that the patient's condition was stable though he suffered from recurrent heart attacks.

The second defendant, meanwhile, testified that the ICU head sneaked into the patient's room the night before and unplugged some of the life support equipment and doubled the amount of morphine administered to sedate the victim.

The report issued by Dubai Health Authority on the case concluded that the ICU head's directives were inappropriate, administratively, clinically and morally.