Bioethics, Medicine and the Criminal Law, Volume 2
Book PrefaceBioethics, Medicine and the Criminal Law, Volume 2
Law and medicine have long intersected. It is only in recent decades, however, that the relationship of law to medical practice has received the sustained attention of more than a very few legal scholars. The first British academic lawyer to develop a major interest in the relationship of law and medicine was also the greatest criminal law scholar of the twentieth century. Glanville Williams’ Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law was based on lectures he delivered in 1956 at Columbia University. It remains the best known of his contributions to what came to be known as medical law. However, it is his writings about the general principles of criminal law (and particularly the issue of criminal liability based on negligence) that have greatest relevance to some of the matters discussed in this volume.
The recent charging, trial and conviction of the late Michael Jackson’s personal physician, Dr Conrad Murray, probably resulted in greater worldwide publicity about a case of ‘medical manslaughter’ than all previous cases combined. There is much in this fascinating volume that bears on such liability and the criminal liability of health professionals generally.
An especially welcome dimension of this volume is the way in which it draws upon the expertise of a wide range of academic disciplines and contributors. Although the experience and law of the UK (and especially England and Wales) are at the heart of much of this book, its approach is anything but insular. Information and perspectives from a range of other jurisdictions are provided. This adds to the value of this book, both within and beyond the UK.
It is a strength of this book that the contributors do not adhere to one party line: some favour less reliance on the criminal law in the regulation of medical practice, others are not opposed to the criminal law having a more extensive role; at least in some contexts. The issue of criminal liability based on negligence extends far beyond the realm of medical practice. So, too, does the associated issue of whether the claim, ‘I never gave the least thought to the risk’, should, if believed, always result in the
acquittal of a cosmetic surgeon (or hunter) whose gross negligence results in another’s death. This book provides a wealth of information and insights about the relationship of criminal justice systems to the provision of healthcare. Even for those with a long-standing interest in such matters, there is much in this volume that informs, challenges and stimulates. It will be a valuable resource for all who grapple with these difficult and important issues.
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