How the UAE’s impending “Good Samaritan” law could impact the sports and events industry

Published 03 June 2019 By: Steve Bainbridge, James McMillan

UAE Samaritan

Recently, iconic Spanish World Cup winning goalkeeper Iker Casillas, during practice for his current club side, Porto, suffered a heart attack. Fortunately, in his case, trained medical professionals employed by the club (and subject to obligations to assist) were at hand and administered appropriate emergency care before he was safely transported to hospital. But what if it had happened to a fan, high in the stands during a match, or travelling to or from a sporting event with no trained professionals on duty? For many people, helping a stranger who requires assistance seems like the natural thing to do, especially in an emergency. This human instinct has been a source of many life-saving interventions and heroic bystander “Good Samaritan” rescues over the years.

Like a number of other jurisdictions1, the UAE, with its expanding sports and events market, is recognising the need to encourage this type of behaviour by alleviating the fear of prosecution or civil liability. This article examines the dynamics relating to the impending enactment in the UAE of a specific “Good Samaritan” law, which has been sought for some time2. In particular, it looks at:

  • What a “Good Samaritan” law might entail and the prevailing international standards

  • The current position in the UAE

    • What a responder currently can and cannot do in the UAE

    • The risks of acting and not acting

  • Comment


Good Samaritan laws are statutory provisions that offer legal protection to people who give reasonable assistance to those who are, or whom they reasonably believe to be, injured, ill, in peril, or otherwise incapacitated. The protection is intended to reduce bystanders' (including, in the sporting context, volunteers’) hesitation to assist, for fear of being sued or prosecuted for unintentional injury or wrongful death. The principle of the Good Samaritan has developed over time to include first aiders and rescuers providing assistance in the aftermath of an emergency.

The Good Samaritan doctrine, which has developed in common-law jurisdictions is a legal principle that protects a responding rescuer who has voluntarily helped a victim in distress from being successfully sued for wrongdoing. Effectively, the responder will not be held legally liable for any harm to the person assisted, as long as the responder acted rationally, in good faith, and in accordance with their level of training. The purpose is to keep people from being reluctant to help a stranger in need for fear of legal repercussions should they make some mistake in treatment. By contrast, a “duty to rescue” law imposes a positive obligation and requires certain individuals to offer assistance and holds those who fail to do so liable.

This Good Samaritan scenario applies in all walks of life and can be of particular relevance in the sports and events context, where tens of thousands of participants and spectators travel and gather to enjoy a broad range of active and sometimes risk-involved pursuits.


Good Samaritan laws naturally tend to vary as specific measures are tailored and implemented to fit specific jurisdictions and account for cultural and historic practices. However, in determining optimal features for a new law in the UAE, it may be instructive to consider what common features appear in similar laws in other jurisdictions. Amongst these common features are the following points:

Imminent Peril - Good Samaritan provisions are intended for specific circumstances rather than minor incidents. In some jurisdictions this is termed “imminent peril”. In the absence of imminent serious danger to life, the actions of a rescuer may be perceived to be reckless and not worthy of protection. However, what if a sports professional (e.g. a boxer) is in immediate danger, and what safety protocol should apply?3 What if the boxer is an amateur, training at a club, without medical professionals on hand?

No Intended Reward or Compensation - Only first aid provided without the intention of reward or financial compensation is covered. Medical professionals are typically not protected by Good Samaritan laws when performing first aid in connection with their employment.

Obligation to Remain - If a responder begins rendering aid, he/she should not leave the scene until it is safe to do so, a rescuer of equal or higher ability takes over, or continuing to give aid is unsafe. This can be as simple as a lack of adequate equipment or protection against potential danger to themselves.

Consent - The responder must obtain the consent of the patient, or of the legal guardian of a patient who is a minor, unless this is not possible. Consent may be implied if an unattended patient is unconscious, delusional, under the influence of medication or other chemical substances or otherwise unfit to make decisions regarding his or her safety, or if the responder has a reasonable belief that this was so. Consent for a minor may typically also be implied if the legal parent or guardian is not immediately reachable or is otherwise unable to consent. A physician – even one who is volunteering at a sporting event - will be subject to different standards and should not presume to be protected under a Good Samaritan law.4

Duty to Assist - In most jurisdictions with such a statute, unless a caretaker relationship (such as a parent-child or doctor-patient relationship) exists prior to the incidence of illness or injury, or unless the Good Samaritan is responsible for the existence of the incidence of illness or injury, no person is required to give aid of any sort to a victim. Good Samaritan statutes in some jurisdictions5, however, do require a person at the scene of an emergency to provide reasonable limited assistance to a person in need. This assistance may be to call emergency services (999 or equivalent).


There is currently no Good Samaritan Law in the UAE. However, it has been reported by a number of sources in the media that a draft “Rescuer Protection Law” has been prepared with suitable input from the Ministry of Health and the Emirates Medical Association6. The authors understand that the draft law has been tailored to ensure that no civil or criminal litigation may be successfully pursued against any person who has, in good faith, provided help to another person in an emergency situation. Notably, the definition does not extend to assistance given by veterinary surgeons to animals.7 The UAE will be the first Arab country to introduce such a law. Whilst it is not entirely clear at this juncture, media reporting8 in the UAE suggests residents may be offered some training upon introduction of the new law, in order to safely assist save lives in an emergency situation.

What Can/Can’t a Responder Do Without Fear of Incurring Liability in the UAE?

Until a Good Samaritan Law has been enacted, it is important to keep in mind that there are a number of laws and procedures that could apply to any given set of circumstances that might otherwise be akin to a Good Samaritan situation, when an individual offers first aid as a rescuer.

Abu Dhabi police have previously stated it is a criminal offence not to immediately contact police in the event of a traffic injury, but also that it is an offence to provide assistance without being trained in first aid9 (pursuant to the Articles 342 and 343 of the Penal Code).

There are certain contexts in which urgent care by non-professionals has been recognized by law. Specifically, in the workplace context, employers will be aware of the minimum first aid requirements under the UAE Federal Labour Law, Law No. 8 of 1980. Sharia law principles do not expect that a rescuer should be competent before assisting someone suffering from a heart attack. In the UAE, a first aid Fatwa allows for a non-Muslim to provide first aid to a Muslim, and for a male to administer first aid to a female. However, employers ought to note carefully in employment files, if there are specific objections to this until the new Good Samaritan Law is fully in force.

No criminal offence will have occurred, in a broad first aid context, if medical treatment administered has been performed in accordance with accepted scientific principles, under Article 53 (2) of the Penal Code. The consent of the patient is required (express or implied), unless medical interference is required in emergency cases.

With reference to the educational setting, schools in the UAE must have at least one full time nurse and one part time doctor if they have up to have 1,000 children. The requirements increase to one full time nurse and at least two full time doctors for schools with up to 2,000 children, in accordance with the School Clinic Regulations administered by the Ministry of Health and Prevention. The Ministry of Interior arranged installation of 82 defibrillators across the UAE during 2016 to ensure lifesaving is a priority. The Abu Dhabi Occupational Safety and Health Centre (OSHAD) Code of Practice encourages all workplaces, worksites and corporate offices to install automated external defibrillators and install an automated external defibrillator program. Accordingly, the introduction of the new Good Samaritan law is to be welcomed as building upon initiatives to date and providing some clarity on the legal position.

What Are the Specific Risks of Acting/Not Acting for a bystander?

With health and safety in contemplation, it is important to strike an appropriate balance in terms of policy. Perhaps there is a developmental aspect to this issue to the extent that the timing for a Good Samaritan law is now right; whereas prior to the proliferation of basic first aid knowledge, training and best practices there was a priority concern for not causing harm. Articles 342 of the Penal Code (Federal Law No. 3 of 1987), states a person may be fined or imprisoned for a period of at least one year, if they cause the death of another person. Article 343 of the Penal Code provides that a person may be fined or imprisoned for up to two years if an act caused the permanent disability of a victim. It would seem that the laudable specific purposes of a Good Samaritan law would reduce the risk of such Penal Code provisions in all but the most egregious of circumstances.

If someone refrains from assisting a victim despite being in a position to do so, penalties could apply under the Penal Code. Article 343 of the Penal Code, specifically provides for penalties if someone “refrained, at that moment, from helping the victim… in spite of the fact that he was capable of doing so” or “if the crime was committed as a result of the offender’s failure to perform the duties imposed on him in the performance of his function, profession or craft”. A personal trainer, for example, may accordingly face a dilemma when pushing a client to their limits. At what point, should they stop, and are they aware of the adequate steps which require to be taken to avoid injury?10

Article 282 of Federal Law No 5 of 1985 (the UAE Civil Code) states: “Any harm done to another shall render the doer thereof, even though not a person of discretion, liable to make good the harm.” Accordingly, the risks to a Good Samaritan of civil claims and or criminal prosecution are prima facie substantial. In many cases, whether it be at sporting events or in public places, the human instinct to help others will overcome immediate concerns about the potential impact upon one’s own position.


We have seen a number of positive legislative steps in the UAE to facilitate improved safety and security at sporting events in recent years11. Provided appropriate guidelines are applied to prevent misinterpretation, the authors take the view that a Good Samaritan law would be beneficial for the UAE to promote helpful intervention and potentially life-saving help by decreasing bystander hesitation (i.e., to counteract the well documented “Bystander Effect”, the inhibiting influence of the presence of others on a person’s willingness to help someone in need12) and provide some comfort and clarity to those who may otherwise have liability concerns on assisting in an emergency situation.

Moreover, with a robust and expanding sports and events calendar and an ever-increasing profile as a global tourism hub, residents, tourists and business travelers alike should feel comfortable that this is a step in the right direction as more helping hands will be available if adverse situations arise in public spaces. Those with appropriate skills and training can feel free to follow their best human instincts and provide aid to others in need without fear of legal action.

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Steve Bainbridge

Steve Bainbridge

Steve has almost 20 years experience in his field of expertise; and, he has significant experience advising on a wide array of the transactional elements underpinning the sports and events management sector from sponsorship agreements and packages of all types to athlete endorsement agreements; anti-ambush marketing strategies and enforcement; player contracts; broadcasting agreements and IP registration and enforcement; merchandising and licensing agreements; player disciplinary issues; event security; ticketing arrangements and varied venue/facilities management arrangements.

Steve rejoined Al Tamimi & Company in 2013 with a mandate to develop and head up the region’s first dedicated Sports Law Practice, which has since grown rapidly as a regional leader to include key advisory roles representing individuals, corporate entities, governing bodies and institutions in connection with events spanning motorsports, horse racing, triathlons, MMA, cycling, golf, tennis, cricket and football to name but a few.


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James McMillan

James McMillan

Senior Associate, Al Tamimi

James is a Senior Associate in the Al Tamimi Regulatory team and has over ten years’ experience focused upon regulatory compliance, investigations and disputes, risk management, crisis management, trade and customs, public policy and advocacy, corporate governance, due diligence, and licensing/permit issues.

James is based in Dubai and regularly contributes articles to journals, national newspapers and presents to corporates on healthcare, environmental, health and safety topics at Al Tamimi & Company.

Tel: +971 47 331 7161

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