High Court rejects motor neurone sufferer’s application to overturn prohibition on assisted suicide

Conway, R (On the application of) v The Secretary of State for Justice [2017] EWHC 2447 (Admin) – read judgment

This case concerns the issue of provision of assistance to a person with a serious wasting disease who wishes to commit suicide, so as to be able to exercise control over the time of his death as the disease reaches its final stages. See our previous post on it here and here. It follows a line of cases which have addressed that or similar issues, in particular R (Pretty) v Director of Public Prosecutions [2001] UKHL 61; [2002] 1 AC 800 (“Pretty“), R (Purdy) v Director of Public Prosecutions [2009] UKHL 54; [2010] 1 AC 345 (“Purdy“) and R (Nicklinson) v Ministry of Justice [2014] UKSC 38; [2015] AC 657(“Nicklinson“). Permission to bring this judicial review was granted by the Court of Appeal (McFarlane and Beatson LJJ, see [2017] EWCA Civ 275), having earlier been refused by the Divisional Court (Burnett LJ, Charles and Jay JJ) at [2017] EWHC 640 (Admin

Section 1 of the Suicide Act 1961 abrogated the rule of law whereby it was a crime for a person to commit suicide. In this hearing Mr Conway sought a claim for a declaration of incompatibility pursuant to section 4 of the Human Rights Act 1998  in respect of the prohibition in the criminal law against provision of assistance for a person to commit suicide. That prohibition is contained in section 2 of the Suicide Act 1961. Continue reading

Are surrogacy costs a legitimate claim?

XX v Whittington Hospital NHS Trust 2017 EWHC 2318 (QB) (18 September 2017)  [HQ15C04535]

Podcast about this case now downloadable

Commercial surrogacy arrangements are considered to be against public policy in the UK and therefore illegal. Surrogacy in the UK is only legal where there is no intention to make a profit – though reasonable expenses are recoverable. Where legal surrogacy is
carried out the surrogate mother is the legal mother of the child. In this case the claimant had suffered injury due to the hospital’s failure to diagnose her cervical cancer in time. She had to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment which, amongst other things, damaged her uterus so she was unable to bear and carry a child. Before the treatment she had her eggs frozen.

The hospital admitted negligence. As part of her damages claim she sought the expenses she would incur for a commercial surrogacy arrangement in California. She wished to go to the US since the position of a woman seeking surrogacy in the UK is made more difficult by the fact that commercial arrangements are illegal. This means that in the UK the surrogate chooses the biological mother, rather than the other way around. The lack of certainty over parental status was also cited as a reason why an arrangement in the US would be preferable. Continue reading

PKU boy to be treated with Kuvan after High Court ruling

You may remember the podcast discussion between me, Rosalind English, and David Hart QC earlier in the summer about the NHS decision not to fund the drug Kuvan for the amelioration of symptoms of a boy suffering from  phenylketonuria (PKU) and severe autism. The podcast concerned a High Court ruling that the health service should review its decision not to fund the drug Kuvan.

As I mentioned in the original report, the judge did warn the boy’s family against being too optimistic, saying

however much one might hope that on the next occasion the panel will decide that the net additional expenditure of treating S with Kuvan would be justified … they could still lawfully decide to refuse funding.

However, the judge’s caution has not been borne out by events. On Friday 29th September it was reported that NHS England has agreed to provide the drug to treat his PKU, which if left unchecked can lead to complications including brain damage.

Listen to Episode 9 of Law Pod UK, available for download on iTunes