Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board: SC 11 Mar 2015

Change in Doctors’ Information Obligations

The pursuer claimed that her obstetrician had been negligent, after her son suffered severe injury at birth. The baby faced a birth with shoulder dystocia – the inability of the shoulders to pass through the pelvis. The consultant considered that a vaginal birth was preferable and did not given advice as to the risks involved. The negligence alleged was in the failing to discuss the risks properly.
Held: The appeal was allowed.
‘Since Sidaway . . it has become increasingly clear that the paradigm of the doctor-patient relationship implicit in the speeches in that case has ceased to reflect the reality and complexity of the way in which healthcare services are provided, or the way in which the providers and recipients of such services view their relationship. One development which is particularly significant in the present context is that patients are now widely regarded as persons holding rights, rather than as the passive recipients of the care of the medical profession. They are also widely treated as consumers exercising choices: a viewpoint which has underpinned some of the developments in the provision of healthcare services. In addition, a wider range of healthcare professionals now provide treatment and advice of one kind or another to members of the public, either as individuals, or as members of a team drawn from different professional backgrounds (with the consequence that, although this judgment is concerned particularly with doctors, it is also relevant, mutatis mutandis, to other healthcare providers). The treatment which they can offer is now understood to depend not only upon their clinical judgment, but upon bureaucratic decisions as to such matters as resource allocation, cost-containment and hospital administration: decisions which are taken by non-medical professionals. Such decisions are generally understood within a framework of institutional rather than personal responsibilities, and are in principle susceptible to challenge under public law rather than, or in addition to, the law of delict or tort. ‘
‘the analysis of the law by the majority in Sidaway is unsatisfactory, in so far as it treated the doctor’s duty to advise her patient of the risks of proposed treatment as falling within the scope of the Bolam test, subject to two qualifications of that general principle, neither of which is fundamentally consistent with that test . . An adult person of sound mind is entitled to decide which, if any, of the available forms of treatment to undergo, and her consent must be obtained before treatment interfering with her bodily integrity is undertaken. The doctor is therefore under a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that the patient is aware of any material risks involved in any recommended treatment, and of any reasonable alternative or variant treatments. The test of materiality is whether, in the circumstances of the particular case, a reasonable person in the patient’s position would be likely to attach significance to the risk, or the doctor is or should reasonably be aware that the particular patient would be likely to attach significance to it. ‘


Lord Neuberger, President, Lady Hale, Deputy President, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Reed, Lord Hodge


[2015] UKSC 11, 2015 GWD 10-179, [2015] Med LR 149, 2015 SCLR 315, (2015) 143 BMLR 47, 2015 SLT 189, [2015] 2 WLR 768, [2015] 1 AC 1430, [2015] 2 All ER 1031, [2015] WLR(D) 123, [2015] PIQR P13, UKSC 2013/0136, 2015 SC (UKSC) 63


Bailii, Bailii Summary, SC Summary, SC, WLRD




At Outer HouseMontgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board SCS 30-Jul-2010
Outer House – The pursuer sought damages for personal injuries to her son at his birth, alleging negligence by the medical staff at the defender hospital. She said that she had been advised a cesarian birth for her child, but the doctors had not . .
Appeal fromNM v Lanarkshire Health Board SCS 23-Jan-2013
Inner House – The pursuer and reclaimer sought reparation for son after grave injury sustained at his birth in a maternity hospital run by the defenders and respondents. She attributes that injury to negligence in a consultant obstetrician. . .
CitedCriminal proceedings against Lindqvist ECJ 6-Nov-2003
Mrs Lindqvist had set up an internet site for her local parish containing information about some of her colleagues in the parish. She gave names, jobs, hobbies and in one case some of the person’s employment and medical details. The Court decided . .
CitedAli And Ayse Duran v Turkey ECHR 8-Apr-2008
‘The requirements of Articles 2 and 3 go beyond the stage of the official investigation, where this has led to the institution of proceedings in the national courts: the proceedings as a whole, including the trial stage, must satisfy the . .
CitedPatricia Armani Da Silva v The United Kingdom ECHR 12-Jul-2012
The claimant’s innocent cousin Jean Charles de Menezes had been shot and killed by police officers seeking a suicide bomber. She had complained that after investigation, no police officer had been prosecuted for any serious offence of murder or . .
CriticisedSidaway v Board of Governors of the Bethlem Royal Hospital and the Maudsley Hospital HL 21-Feb-1985
Explanation of Medical Risks essential
The plaintiff alleged negligence in the failure by a surgeon to disclose or explain to her the risks inherent in the operation which he had advised.
Held: The appeal failed. A mentally competent patient has an absolute right to refuse to . .
CitedHunter v Hanley 4-Feb-1955
The pursuer had been injured when the hypodermic needle being used by the defender doctor broke in use. The pursuer said that the direction by the judge as to accepted practice for the use of such needles.
Held: The court considered the . .
CitedBolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee QBD 1957
Professional to use Skilled Persons Ordinary Care
Negligence was alleged against a doctor.
Held: McNair J directed the jury: ‘Where some special skill is exercised, the test for negligence is not the test of the man on the Clapham omnibus, because he has not got this special skill. The test . .
CitedBolitho v City and Hackney Health Authority HL 24-Jul-1997
The plaintiff suffered catastrophic brain damage as a result of cardiac arrest induced by respiratory failure as a child whilst at the defendant hospital. A doctor was summoned but failed to attend, and the child suffered cardiac arrest and brain . .
CitedPearce and Pearce v United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust CA 20-May-1998
A doctor advised a mother to delay childbirth, but the child was then stillborn. She complained that he should have advised her of the risk of the baby being stillborn.
Held: ‘In a case where it is being alleged that a plaintiff has been . .
CitedWyatt v Curtis CA 30-Oct-2003
The first defendant, Dr Curtis, then a locum general practitioner, failed to warn the claimant, Miss Wyatt, who presented with chickenpox, about the consequent risk to her unborn child. It was admitted at trial that this had been negligent. It was . .
CitedJones v North West Strategic Health Authority QBD 5-Feb-2010
The claimant, now 17 years old, sought damages alleging negligence by the doctors at his birth. The court now heard as a preliminary issue questions as to the liability of the defendants for the injuries suffered. He said that his mother had not . .
CitedChester v Afshar HL 14-Oct-2004
The claimant suffered back pain for which she required neurosurgery. The operation was associated with a 1-2% risk of the cauda equina syndrome, of which she was not warned. She went ahead with the surgery, and suffered that complication. The . .
CitedMaynard v West Midlands Regional Health Authority HL 1985
The test of professional negligence is the standard of the ordinary skilled man exercising and professing to have that special skill. Lord Scarman said: ‘a doctor who professes to exercise a special skill must exercise the ordinary skill must . .
CitedRogers v Whitaker 19-Nov-1992
High Court of Australia – Negligence – Breach of duty – Medical practitioner – Duty to warn of possibility of adverse effect of proposed treatment – Extent of duty.
The patient complained that the doctor when proposing a form of treatment to . .
CitedTysiac v Poland ECHR 20-Mar-2007
The applicant alleged that the circumstances of her case had given rise to violations of Article 8 of the Convention. She also relied on Article 3. The applicant further complained under Article 13 that she did not have an effective remedy at her . .
CitedMcColl v Strathclyde Regional Council SCS 29-Jun-1983
The petitioner challenged the decision of the respondents to flouridate the water supply, claiming that it was damaging to her health. Her challenge was on four gounds, namely: (1) ultra vires, (2) nuisance, (3) breach of the Water (Scotland) Act . .
CitedAiredale NHS Trust v Bland HL 4-Feb-1993
Procedures on Withdrawal of Life Support Treatment
The patient had been severely injured in the Hillsborough disaster, and had come to be in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). The doctors sought permission to withdraw medical treatment. The Official Solicitor appealed against an order of the Court . .
CitedRosenberg v Percival 5-Apr-2001
Austlii High Court of Australia – Negligence – Breach of duty – Surgeon’s duty to warn of material risk in proposed surgery – Identification of the material risk – Meaning of material risk.
Negligence – . .
CitedGlass v The United Kingdom ECHR 9-Mar-2004
The applicant’s adult son was disabled. There was a disagreement with the hospital about his care. The hospital considered that to alleviate his distress, he should not be resuscitated. The family wanted to take him home, fearing euthanasia. The . .
CitedD G v Ireland ECHR 16-May-2002
Hudoc Judgment (Merits and just satisfaction) Violation of Art. 5-1; Violation of Art. 5-5; No violation of Art. 3; No separate issue under Art. 8 in respect of lawfulness of detention; No violation of Art. 8 in . .

Cited by:

CitedA and B, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Health SC 14-Jun-2017
The court was asked: ‘Was it unlawful for the Secretary of State for Health, the respondent, who had power to make provisions for the functioning of the National Health Service in England, to have failed to make a provision which would have enabled . .
CitedHuman Rights Commission for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland : Abortion) SC 7-Jun-2018
The Commission challenged the compatibility of the NI law relating to banning nearly all abortions with Human Rights Law. It now challenged a decision that it did not have standing to bring the case.
Held: (Lady Hale, Lord Kerr and Lord Wilson . .
CitedIn re D (A Child) SC 26-Sep-2019
D, a young adult had a mild learning disability and other more serious conditions. He was taken into a hospital providing mental health services. The external door was locked, and a declaration was sought to permit this deprivation of his liberty, . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Professional Negligence, Personal Injury

Leading Case

Updated: 19 April 2022; Ref: scu.544222