Oman’s New Law on the practice of medicine and allied health professions
In November 2019 Oman passed a new law governing the practice of medicine and allied health professions, Royal Decree 75/2019 (“New Law”), which repeals the earlier Royal Decree 22/1996. The New Law aims to bring existing Omani healthcare legislation in line with some of the standards that have recently been tackled in the international healthcare space, including standards of professional ethics, the use of patient information and the circumstances in which medical research on humans is permitted. It is pertinent to note that the New Law envisages the issuance of a set of executive regulations (“Regulations”) by the Minister of Health prior to 6 November 2020, to provide further detail in respect of certain specific areas, as highlighted below.
Areas covered by the New Law
Licensing and formation of technical committee
The New Law provides that the Regulations will contain comprehensive requirements and criteria on the terms of medical professional and private healthcare institution licencing, including the criteria required to obtain a licence and procedure to follow when recruiting and registering visiting medical practitioners and “allied health” professionals (which such term is defined as covering nurses, midwives, radiographers, physiotherapists, dentists and laboratory technicians) (“Allied Health”).
The Minister of Health will issue a decision to establish one or more technical committees to supervise the medical and dentistry professions and enforce the Regulations (“Committees”). The purpose of this decision is presumably to ensure that a reasonable standard of practice is maintained and to permit the imposition of sanctions and penalties in circumstances where there has been a failure to attain the basic professional standards stated in the New Law, which include adhering to professional ethics and performing duties accurately and honestly.
Of key interest is that the New Law specifically provides that patients cannot be refused treatment and must not be exploited by medical or Allied Health professionals. While the New Law does not define “exploitation”, the general view is that the Committees would investigate allegations that a patient had been exposed to financial or physical exploitation as a condition of receiving treatment.
Advertising and promotion of products
The New Law now contains specific prohibitions on medical and Allied Health professionals from (i) promoting products or health institutions where they have a direct or indirect personal interest in such promotion and (ii) advertising themselves or any other person contrary to the Regulations. These provisions supplement the advertising restrictions in existing pharmaceutical legislation in Oman.
Medical research and assisted suicide
Research that is connected with cloning humans or organs is strictly prohibited. Any other research or experiment conducted on human patients may be carried out only with the patient’s express written consent and after having complied with the decision issued by the Minister of Health on the manner in which such research may be conducted. A breach of the relevant provisions of the New Law may entail imprisonment for up to five years and/or a fine of between OMR 3,000 – 10,000 (USD 8000 – 26,000).
The New Law contains a strict prohibition on acts that may lead to ending a patient’s life in violation of technical and scientific principles that are followed by the medical profession. Furthermore, a patient’s life must not be ended by medical professionals regardless of the reason, even if requested by the patient, the patient’s parents, or guardians. A breach of these provisions may entail imprisonment for up to five years and/or a fine of between OMR 3,000 – 10,000 (USD 8000 – 26,000).
Assisted reproduction and abortion
Reproductive technology may be administered only to married couples, with their written consent. The Minister of Health is due to issue a decision further detailing the conditions and regulations of using assisted reproductive technology.
Additionally, procedures that will result in abortion may only be performed on the advice of a medical committee comprising three specialist physicians and only if the pregnancy poses a risk to the mother’s life. If the medical committee establishes that the pregnancy may result in a serious, untreatable genetic disease affecting the fetus, abortion may be permitted provided that the relevant provisions of the Regulations are complied with and such abortion is carried out before the term of the pregnancy has reached 120 days.
Disclosure of patient information
Patient information may not be disclosed to any person without the patient’s express written consent. Exceptions to this rule permit disclosure in certain circumstances, including where disclosure is necessary to prevent a crime, where a patient is subjected to a condition that threatens public health and safety or where disclosure is required to health insurance companies.
Prior to the New Law, medical malpractice claims were generally handled by the Higher Medical Authority of Oman. The New Law provides detailed provisions on the handling of medical malpractice claims, including that such claims will now be decided by a newly formed Supreme Medical Committee that has the power to investigate whether malpractice has indeed occurred and if so, to determine the level of compensation payable or whether harsher sanctions are justified.
Al Tamimi’s specialist healthcare lawyers in Oman regularly advise on legal and regulatory matters concerning the practice of medicine and the operation of healthcare facilities in Oman. For more details on our offering and how we can assist you, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.