Simmons v Castle [2012] EWCA Civ 1039

This personal injury claim gave the Court of Appeal the opportunity to set guidelines on the measure of general damages. Following the recommendations of the Jackson report, and in anticipation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (which is not yet in force) the Court ruled that from 1 April 2013, the proper level of general damages should rise by 10%.

Tony Nicklinson loses right-to-die bid

Tony Nicklinson lost his bid to be “allowed to die” in a case that challenged the law on murder. Mr Nicklinson was paralysed following a stroke, and could communicate only by blinking.

This case stands out from other similar applications, as it did not concern an assisted suicide. Due to his paralysis, Mr Nicklinson was not able to kill himself. If someone else were to kill him (for example by administering drugs), even with his consent, it would amount to murder.

The Court accepted the case was “deeply moving” but decided that to allow Mr Nicklinson to proceed as he wished would have consequences far beyond his circumstances, and would result in a major change to the law. Lord Justice Toulson stated:

“It is not for the court to decide whether the law on assisted dying should be changed and, if so what safeguards should be put in place. Under our system of government these are matters for Parliament to decide.”

Mr Nicklinson, who was distraught by the decision, indicated he intended to appeal. Sadly, he died a few days later after contracting pneumonia and refusing treatment.

Legalising assisted dying “doesn’t lead to more opting for death”: Lancet

The figures of a study published in the Lancet have been used by advocates of a change in the law in the UK, who argue that a change would not lead to an increase in the number of people who would choose assisted dying.

After the introduction of legislation in the Netherlands legalising assisted suicide, academics found that death rates were “comparable” and that the reporting of cases had improved.

Campaign director of the group Care Not Killing, Dr Peter Saunders, disputed the figures, saying that if the results were examined more carefully they showed a large rise in the use of drugs such as continuous deep sedation in suicides. The Telegraph reported Dr Saunders as saying that Dutch doctors “have kept the euthanasia figures low simply by choosing to end patients’ lives in ways other than administering paralysing drugs”. He concluded that the UK should “take warning”.

The BMA recently voted to remain in firm opposition to any change in the law.

The Human Medicines Regulations 2012

The Human Medicines Regulations 2012 came into force on 14 August 2012. The regulations consolidate the Medicines Act 1968 and all associated statutory instruments, which number over 200. The purpose of the regulations is to simplify existing legislation as well as introduce a number of policy changes. The most noteworthy changes concern a new pharmacovigilance regime in accordance with EU Directive 2010/84/EU.

The changes include requirements for marketing authorisation holders (MAHs) to submit reports into EudraVigilance, the database maintained by the European Medicines Agency – submission to the MHRA (UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency) is no longer required. The detailed description of the Pharmacovigilance System has been replaced by a requirement for MAHs to submit a Pharmacovigilance System Master File to the MHRA. Periodic Safety Update Reports (PSURs) need to be submitted in electronic format to the European Medicines Agency and submission is not required for low risk, old or established products.

Lewis Clements (widower & administrator of the estate of Lesley Clements, deceased) v Royal Liverpool & Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust [2012] EWHC 2335 (QB)

The claimant issued a claim against the defendant Trust for alleged negligence in performing surgery on his wife, resulting in her death. Mrs Clements had been diagnosed with colon cancer and required surgery to remove a tumour. Two surgeons performed the operation in June 2008, removing part of the colon and creating an anastomosis ( joining the end of the small bowel and the remainder of the transverse colon). Mrs Clements suffered complications and further surgery was required, performed by a third surgeon. This surgeon gave evidence at the trial that multiple adhesions caused a partial obstruction of the small bowel, which was relieved when he removed the adhesions. Following her discharge, Mrs Clements continued to require around the clock care and a ventilator. She died in January 2012.

Mr Clements claimed that his wife’s complications were due to the negligence of the surgeons performing the first operation. He argued that Mrs Clements’ bowel had been twisted before being reattached.

The court found in the Trust’s favour. The evidence showed that the anastomosis was correctly formed and there had been no twisting at that time. The evidence of the surgeon performing the second surgery was accepted, despite the long passage of time. It was clear, convincing and, importantly, the surgeon had good contemporaneous notes.