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Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

Southampton’s ‘Gillick’?

In 2012, Reproduction, Testing project on February 27, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Just a quick post: Earlier this month news ‘broke’ of young women being offered contraceptive advice and services in Southampton, prompting comment in the local media. This evening, an interview with Prof. Roger Ingham, Director of the Centre for Sexual Health Research, was shown on the BBC One programme Inside Out South, in a section of the programme dedicated to this story (first 5 mins of the programme, available on iPlayer for the next week). Such debates are, of course, not new – see GillickThe Government has announced plans to publish a new sexual health policy document in 2012, but whether either its publication or the concerns of parents will lead to further legal challenges remains to be seen.

HEAL’s next meeting: 22 February 2012

In 2012, Death and dying, Meetings on February 17, 2012 at 8:32 am

HEAL’s next meeting will be on Wednesday February 22, 2012, at 1pm in 4/2007, where Hazel Biggs will lead a seminar on ‘The Death Commission’, drawing on the recent Report by the Commission on Assisted Dying. This is a follow up event to last year’s HEAL seminar on the parameters of the Commission’s consultation paper, led by Hazel Biggs, Jonathan Montgomery and Caroline Jones.

Big negligence payouts do not make a bad hospital but trends need explaining

In 2012 on February 13, 2012 at 12:58 pm

BBC Radio Oxford was concerned last week about the scale of payments made by Oxford University Hospitals in relation to clinical negligence.  Although the figures came out last summer, attention was drawn to clinical negligence payments by a large amount in damages in a local case involving a GP. Jonathan Montgomery suggested to the Radio station that the amount paid out in damages was a poor guide to the quality of care in a hospital. Data from the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) show that while the sums of money are large (£13m for the Oxford Radcliffe hospital in 2010-11) they relate to a relatively small number of claims (only 59 claims were received in that year).  About 40% of the payments related to obstetrics where a small mistake can have catastrophic effects.

One interesting way of considering the implications of the NHSLA data might be to compare the payments that are made into the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts (CNST) with those paid out. The contributions in are based on an assessment of risk and therefore if payouts exceed the contributions, the damages paid are more than expected. If payouts are less, then hospital has been less prone to damages claims than its risk profile would predict. On this measure  the Oxford hospitals payouts in 2001/11 were only 1.5% higher than expected, a marginal figure. Southampton hospitals paid in £7.93m in that year and the CNST paid out only £3.46 million on its behalf, so they had a relatively cheap year for claims. Over the five-year period, 2006-11, payments in respect of Oxford have been 20.43% higher than their contributions. For Southampton, the difference is only 0.67%. This data can only generate questions and does not indicate poor services but perhaps there is something for Oxford to explain here.

Jonathan Montgomery

Steps in a right to die test case

In 2012, Death and dying, Testing project on February 9, 2012 at 11:40 am

In a recent article, ‘Guarding the gates of St Peter: life, death and law making’ (2011) Legal Studies 31, (4), 644-666, I argued that the decision of the House of Lords in R (Purdy) v DPP  [2009] UKHL 45 raised some serious constitutional problems about the role of judicial law making. Following that case the Director of Public Prosecution issued new guidelines on the decision to prosecute, but I have suggested that these have been essentially designed to distinguish suicide from homicide, not homicide from euthanasia. As Hazel Biggs has argued, they are therefore ‘largely ineffectual in the broader context of the debate about assisted dying’  (‘Legitimate compassion or compassionate legitimation? Reflections on the policy for prosecutors in respect of cases of encouraging or assisting suicide’. (2011) Feminist Legal Studies, 19, (1), 83-92.  We should not therefore be surprised that they have already given rise to challenge in the courts by people who feel that the law on assisted dying is unacceptable.

Tony Nicklinson’s case has already been before the courts twice on preliminary issues. First whether the DPP’s guidance exposed those giving advice to him on his options to the risk of prosecution because it identified professional involvement as an indication in favour of prosecution. In this first step, the court permitted doctors and lawyers to help him prepare his case and talk to individuals or organisations – including Dignitas in Switzerland – which might be able to assist him: “the solicitors may obtain information from third parties and from appropriate experts for the purpose of placing material before the court and that third parties may co-operate in so doing without the people involved acting in any way unlawfully”. In the second step, on which a ruling is awaited, the Ministry of Justice has sought to have his challenge to the law struck out as having no realistic prospect of success because the law is clearly established and only Parliament could change it.  We await the judgment of Charles J on this matter.

Jonathan Montgomery

Jonathan Montgomery to Chair Nuffield Council on Bioethics

In 2012 on February 2, 2012 at 10:05 am

Jonathan MontgImageomery has been appointed the new Chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. Jonathan is Professor of Health Care Law at the University of Southampton and Chair of Hampshire Primary Care Trust. Jonathan will begin his 5-year term on 12 March 2012.

“I was delighted to be invited to take on this role,” said Professor Montgomery. “The Council has made an outstanding contribution over its first twenty years; informing public opinion and influencing policy and practice in areas of vital interest to our society. I relish the prospect of being part of its work over the next five years. Bioethics touches all of our lives and we need to think clearly and rigorously about using our scientific knowledge responsibly and for the benefit of us all. The Council has established itself as a pre-eminent source of wise advice in the UK and internationally. It will be a privilege to join it.”

Professor Montgomery will take over from Albert Weale, ESRC Professorial Fellow and Professor of Political Theory and Public Policy at UCL. See further the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ site.