Regina v Cambridge and Huntingdon Health Committee Ex Parte B: CA 10 Mar 1995

A decision by a Health Authority to withhold treatment for a patient could be properly so made. It was not ordinarily to be a matter for lawyers. A Health Authority’s withholding of treatment, which might not be in a child’s simple best interests could even so be lawful, but when called upon, it would have to show substantial cause for its decisions.
Where the use of limited resources has to be decided, the undesirability of the court stepping in too quickly was made clear: (Sir Thomas Bingham MR) ‘I have no doubt that in a perfect world any treatment which a patient, or a patient’s family, sought would be provided if doctors were willing to give it, no matter how much it cost, particularly when a life was potentially at stake. It would however, in my view, be shutting one’s eyes to the real world if the court were to proceed on the basis that we do live in such a world. It is common knowledge that health authorities of all kinds are constantly pressed to make ends meet. They cannot pay their nurses as much as they would like; they cannot provide all the treatments they would like; they cannot purchase all the extremely expensive medical equipment they would like; they cannot carry out all the research they would like; they cannot build all the hospitals and specialist units they would like. Difficult and agonising judgments have to be made as to how a limited budget is best allocated to the maximum advantage of the maximum number of patients. That is not a judgment which the court can make. In my judgment, it is not something that a health authority such as this authority can be fairly criticised for not advancing before the court.’
Sir Thomas Bingham MR: ‘. . . the courts are not, contrary to what is sometimes believed, arbiters as to the merits of cases of this kind. Were we to express opinions as to the likelihood of the effectiveness of medical treatment, or as to the merits of medical judgment, then we should be straying far from the sphere which under our constitution is accorded to us. We have one function only, which is to rule upon the lawfulness of decisions. That is a function to which we should strictly confine ourselves.’


Sir Thomas Bingham MR


Independent 14-Mar-1995, Times 15-Mar-1995, [1995] 1 WLR 898, [1995] EWCA Civ 43, [1995] EWCA Civ 49, [1995] Fam Law 480, [1995] 6 Med LR 250, [1995] 1 FLR 1056, [1995] 2 FCR 485, [1995] 2 All ER 129, [1995] COD 407


Bailii, Bailii


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedWatts, Regina (on the Application of) v Bedford Primary Care Trust and others Admn 1-Oct-2003
The claimant sought hip-replacement treatment. She was first told that she would have to wait a year. As her lawyers pressed the respondent, she looked at obtaining treatment in France. As she decided to take the treatment, the respondent reduced . .
CitedRogers, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Health Admn 15-Feb-2006
The claimant suffered breast cancer. She sought treatment from the defendant with a drug called Herceptin, and now sought judicial review of the refusal of such treatment. Various stages in the licensing of the drug were yet to be completed. It was . .
CitedRogers, Regina (on the Application of) v Swindon NHS Primary Care Trust CA 12-Apr-2006
The claimant challenged the policy of her local health authority not to allow prescription to her of the drug Herceptin.
Held: The policy had not been settled upon lawfully and was to be set aside. On the one hand the PCT developed a policy . .
See AlsoRegina v Cambridge and Huntingdonshire Health Authority Ex Parte B (No 2) CA 27-Oct-1995
A child’s anonymity could removed, where publicity could generate cash for required treatment. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Health, Children

Updated: 19 May 2022; Ref: scu.86273