Letters Imprisonment of Cyril Karabus

Consider the risks of working in the UAE carefully

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e7528 (Published 19 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7528
  1. Martin C Scholtz, consultant psychiatrist1
  1. 1Devon Partnership NHS Trust, Devon, UK
  1. martin.scholtz{at}nhs.net

Your editorial about Professor Karabus’s imprisonment in Dubai highlights the risks facing clinicians who work in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).1

This case is just one of many examples of highly respected and skilled doctors and nurses being persecuted over the years in the UAE for allegedly causing a patient’s death or harm before the incident has been properly investigated. I worked in the UAE from 1998 to 2002 as an emergency physician in a tertiary academic hospital. During this time several doctors were deported or fled the country overnight in fear of deportation, imprisonment, confiscation of their passports, or having to pay “blood money” to patients’ families.

While working in the UAE this risk, created by an extreme blame culture coupled with poor public understanding of Western medicine, was ever present. Risks extended beyond the working environment. Being involved in a road traffic accident in which someone died could land you in serious trouble. An elder in our church spent months in shackles after being involved in a car accident in which a woman died. I was once arrested for not getting out of the fast lane of the motorway quickly enough and offending a highly connected man in his luxury car. I was arrested, my passport confiscated, and I was forced by a police officer to apologise.

Tax-free salaries, free luxury accommodation, paid schooling, and plane tickets continue to make the UAE an attractive career prospect. The crime rate is low (no surprises there) and the lifestyle is enviable. The UAE provided all of this for me and my young family and we were lucky to return after four years, enriched financially, socially, and culturally. Before deciding to work there, however, I advise you to consider the risks carefully.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7528


  • Competing interests: None declared.