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Cases and illustrations of the principle of freedom being restricted by the law Including the right to life or the right to die, and other moral issues.

Airedale NHS Trust v Bland [1993] HL

(A patient in a vegetative state for whom there was no hope of recovery was allowed to die. The House of Lords said this was lawful but the courts should give guidance. Do we have a right to die?  Other cases on this point are Pretty, and Re: B)

Annie Lindsell

(Woman denied the right to chose when she should die)

Attorney General’s Ref (No 6 of 1980) CA

(Consensual fighting in the street not lawful)

Baker v Hopkins [1959] CA

(Damages awarded to rescuer who suffered psychiatric harm)

Bolam v Friern Hospital [1957] QBD

(Doctor acting within normal practice not liable for injuring patient)

Central London Property v High Trees House [1956] Denning J

(The equitable principle of promissory estoppel makes a promise binding)

Chadwick v British Railways [1967] Waller J

(Damages awarded to rescuer who suffered psychiatric harm)

Clark v MacLennan [1983]

(Doctor acting outside normal practice liable for injuring patient)

F v West Berkshire Health Authority [1990] HL

(Compulsory sterilisation of mental patient)

Fairchild v Glenhaven [2002] HL

(Policy considerations allow justice – precise cause of mesothelioma not known)

Frenchay NHS Trust v S [1993] CA

(Allowing patient to die not to be questioned)

Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority [1986] HL

(Rights of parent overruled, raises the question of "Whose moral preference?")

Mrs Gillick took the DSS to court over a memorandum instructing doctors to prescribe the contraceptive pill to under age girls, without obtaining parental consent

Gillick thought this unlawful, she won her case at appeal but lost in the House of Lords. It is a good illustration of how law and morality turn on different legal interpretations.

Government's stance: non-prescription of the pill could lead to back street abortions, infection, and spread of disease.


Can a young person (under 16) give consent.

Do they possess sufficient autonomy to decide what to do with their bodies.
'When does parental control wane?

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority Ex p. Blood, R v [1997] CA

(Taking deceased husband’s sperm for insemination out of the UK)

Nettleship v Weston [1971] CA

(Learner drive morally blameless found liable for injury to passenger)

Pretty v The United Kingdom (2002) ECHR

(Patient not allowed assisted suicide)

Brown, R v (1993) HL

(Sado-masochistic males convicted of causing harm to each other)


R v Wilson (Alan) (1996)
R v Boyea [1992]
R v Donovan (1934)

R v Cox (1992) Winchester Crown Court, Ognall J

(Mercy killing was it merciful release or murder)

R v Howe [1987] HL

(Duress not a defence to murder)

R v R (rape - marital exemption) [1991] HL

(Husband could be guilty of raping his wife)

R v Sheppard [1980] HL

(Ignorant parents not guilty of wilful neglect causing child's death)

R v Stone & Dobinson  [1977] CA

(Indifference creates liability for death)

Re A (Children) (2000) CA

(Moral issue in conjoined twin case)

Re B (A Minor) (Wardship: Medical Treatment) [1981]

(Down's Syndrome child allowed to die)

Re B (adult: refusal of medical treatment) [2002] FD

(Patient's right to refuse medical treatment causes her death)

Re J (a Minor) [1991] CA

(No absolute presumption in favour of life & no requirement to ‘strive officiously to keep alive’)

Re S (Adult Patient: Sterilisation) (2000) CA

(Mental patient not forced to have hysterectomy)

Re T [1992] CA

(Blood transfusion against religious wishes lawful)

Re W (A Minor) [1992] CA 

(16 year old treated for anorexia nervosa against her wishes)

Roe v Ministry of Health [1954] CA

(Medical practice sets its own standards)

Sidaway v Bethlem Royal Hospital [1985] HL

(Doctor can decide how much information regarding risk is given to patient)

Mrs Sidaway under went an operation to relieve pain in her neck and shoulders. There was a small risk of severe disablement should the spinal cord be damaged.

The risk materialized and she was paralysed, but the operation was not carried out negligently.

As the surgeon who did the operation died between the operation and the hearing of the case; what was actually said to Mrs Sidaway could never be ascertained.

Mrs Sidaway evoked the American phrase "informed consent". She argued that the surgeon should have told her of all the risks involved.

Did the doctor know best and presume that Mrs Sidaway would have undergone the operation. Is it right that all medical help is regarded as experimental thereby giving Surgeons an 'excuse', Roe v Minister For Health.

Should the law sanction the doctors or patients position?

In terms of the consent every patient gives before an operation, perhaps we consent to an unforeseeable accident, but not to a risk we should know about?

The case of Derek Sage

(An example of a man being denied life saving treatment because his quality of life was questioned)

A health authority refused to continue kidney dialysis treatment on the grounds that Mr sage had not a sufficiently 'high quality of life'.

As there were enough machines to go round, it was not a shortage of resources issue.

The phrase quality of life was highly suspect, mostly for its lack of "qualification".

Did this mean that doctors could pick and choose who receives treatment? Do you reject the elderly, the less well educated or the very young.

If society pays for medical care through taxation does society have a right to determine who gets treatment. Why spend thousands of pounds on an organ transplant that rarely work, when you could spend the money on more effective treatments?

How does a doctor allocate resources?

Youssoupoff v MGM Pictures (1934) CA

(Morals change over time, rape case)

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