HEAL UoS

Posts Tagged ‘Court of Appeal’

Case of the week: September 22, 2000

In Case of the week, Cases 2000, Death and dying on September 19, 2011 at 8:46 am

Re A (Children) EWCA Civ, Sept 22, 2000.  

The twins, named Jodie and Mary in the reports in order to preserve their anonymity, were born on August 8, 2000 in Manchester, after their parents travelled to the UK from Gozo, Malta (as it was known they were expecting conjoined twins and local resources were limited). They were joined at the lower abdomen/pelvis and – crucially – shared an aorta. Whilst Jodie was reported to have an ‘anatomically normal brain, heart, lungs and liver’, showing normal reactions to stimuli etc [para 6, CA transcript, below], Mary was reported to have a ‘primitive brain’, poorly functioning heart, and an absence of ‘functioning lung tissue’ [at 7], and was therefore dependent on Jodie for survival. The surgical team and hospital were in favour of surgical separation in order to maximise the chances of Jodie’s survival; the pressure placed on her heart in supporting both her and Mary was, according to expert evidence, highly likely to lead to the premature deaths of both children, whereas separation might enable Jodie to survive, albeit it that it would concurrently lead to Mary’s immediate death.

The parents disagreed, noting the influence of their devout religious faith (Roman Catholic) that it should be ‘God’s will’ to decide whether or not either or both of the children should survive. The hospital sought, and was granted, a declaration that the operation might go ahead – it was granted by Johnson J on 25 August 2000. The parents’ appeal was, a month later, dismissed by a unanimous Court of Appeal panel, comprised of Ward LJ, Brooke LJ and Robert Walker LJ. Unsurprisingly this case raised a plethora of legal and ethical/moral dilemmas for the court including – but not exhaustively – the role of parents in decision-making; questions over comparative ‘quality of life’ issues; welfare/best interests; murder, intention & the doctrine of necessity (in defence); role of religion; relevant aspects and intersections of Family Law and Criminal Law; & the sanctity of life (including some comments on the (then) forthcoming Human Rights Act 1998. However, the unanimity of the agreed outcome masks the divergent routes by which the individual judges arrived at their decisions.

For those who wish to read further, the case transcript is freely available to all via  BAILII:  http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2000/254.html. Permission to appeal to the House of Lords was granted, but the parents chose not to appeal – nor was a direct application to Strasbourg (ie an alternative route to challenge the decision) undertaken.

Links

Coverage of the CA decision: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/937586.stm  

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2000/sep/28/4?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

Coverage of reactions to the decision: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/937377.stm

This decision is also reported at [2001] Fam 147, [2000] 4 All ER 961, [2001] 2 WLR 480, [2000] 3 FCR 577, [2001] 1 FLR 1, [2001] Fam Law 18, 57 BMLR 1; but access to these resources may be restricted (subscription required).

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