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 consent to medical treatment for any reason, rational or irrational, or for no reason at all, even where that decision may lead to his or her own death.
However, where a patient does not ask as to the risks, Lord Diplock said: ‘we are concerned here with volunteering unsought information about risks of the proposed treatment failing to achieve the result sought or making the patient’s physical or mental condition worse rather than better. The only effect that mention of risks can have on the patient’s mind, if it has any at all, can be in the direction of deterring the patient from undergoing the treatment which in the expert opinion of the doctor it is in the patient’s interest to undergo. To decide what risks the existence of which a patient should be voluntarily warned and the terms in which such warning, if any, should be given, having regard to the effect that the warning may have, is as much an exercise of professional skill and judgment as any other part of the doctor’s comprehensive duty of care to the individual patient, and expert medical evidence on this matter should be treated in just the same way. The Bolam test should be applied.’ and ‘a doctor’s duty of care, whether he be general practitioner or consulting surgeon or physician is owed to that patient and none other, idiosyncrasies and all.’ .’
Lord Scarman said: ‘Damage is the gist of the action of negligence’
Lord Templeman, Lord Diplock, Lord Scarman, Lord Keith
 1 All ER 643,  2 WLR 480,  AC 871,  UKHL 1
England and Wales
Cited – Bolam 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 . .
Cited – Maynard 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 . .
Cited – Whitehouse v Jordan HL 17-Dec-1980
The plaintiff sued for brain damage suffered at birth by use of forceps at the alleged professional negligence of his doctor. The Court of Appeal had reversed the judge’s finding in his favour.
Held: In this case most of the evidence at issue . .
Cited – Airedale NHS Trust v Bland CA 9-Dec-1992
The official Solicitor appealed against a decision that doctors could withdraw medical treatment including artificial nutrition, from a patient in persistent vegetative state.
Held: The doctors sought permission to act in accordance with . .
Cited – Airedale 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 . .
Cited – Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority and Department of Health and Social Security HL 17-Oct-1985
Lawfulness of Contraceptive advice for Girls
The claimant had young daughters. She challenged advice given to doctors by the second respondent allowing them to give contraceptive advice to girls under 16, and the right of the first defendant to act upon that advice. She objected that the . .
Cited – In re MB (Medical Treatment) CA 26-Mar-1997
The patient was due to deliver a child. A delivery by cesarean section was necessary, but the mother had a great fear of needles, and despite consenting to the operation, refused the necessary consent to anesthesia in any workable form.
Held: . .
Cited – AB and others v Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust QBD 26-Mar-2004
Representative claims were made against the respondents, hospitals, pathologists etc with regard to the removal of organs from deceased children without the informed consent of the parents. They claimed under the tort of wrongful interference.
Followed – In re T (Adult: Refusal of Treatment) CA 1992
A patient’s right to veto medical treatment is absolute: ‘This right of choice is not limited to decisions which others might regard as sensible. It exists notwithstanding that the reasons for making the choice are rational, irrational, unknown or . .
Cited – Pearce 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 . .
Cited – Chester 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 . .
Cited – Gregg v Scott HL 27-Jan-2005
The patient saw his doctor and complained about a lump under his arm. The doctor failed to diagnose cancer. It was nine months before treatment was begun. The claimant sought damages for the reduction in his prospects of disease-free survival for . .
Cited – Moy v Pettman Smith (a firm) and another HL 3-Feb-2005
Damages were claimed against a barrister for advice on a settlement given at the door of the court. After substantial litigation, made considerably more difficult by the negligence of the solicitors, the barrister had not advised the claimant at the . .
Cited – JD v East Berkshire Community Health NHS Trust and others HL 21-Apr-2005
Parents of children had falsely and negligently been accused of abusing their children. The children sought damages for negligence against the doctors or social workers who had made the statements supporting the actions taken. The House was asked if . .
Cited – Powell and Another v Boldaz and others CA 1-Jul-1997
The plaintiff’s son aged 10 died of Addison’s Disease which had not been diagnosed. An action against the Health Authority was settled. The parents then brought an action against 5 doctors in their local GP Practice in relation to matters that had . .
Cited – F v West Berkshire Health Authority HL 17-Jul-1990
The parties considered the propriety of a sterilisation of a woman who was, through mental incapacity, unable to give her consent.
Held: The appeal succeeded, and the operation would be lawful if the doctor considered it to be in the best . .
Cited – McFaddens (A Firm) v Platford TCC 30-Jan-2009
The claimant firm of solicitors had been found negligent, and now sought a contribution to the damages awarded from the barrister defendant. They had not managed properly issues as to their clients competence to handle the proceedings.
Held: . .
Applied – Montgomery 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 . .
Cited – NM 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. . .
Criticised – 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 . .
Cited – Nicklinson and Another, Regina (on The Application of) SC 25-Jun-2014
Criminality of Assisting Suicide not Infringing
The court was asked: ‘whether the present state of the law of England and Wales relating to assisting suicide infringes the European Convention on Human Rights, and whether the code published by the Director of Public Prosecutions relating to . .
Cited – Freeman v Home Office (No 2) CA 1984
A prisoner brought an action in battery against a prison doctor for administering drugs to him by injection. He argued that he was incapable of consenting to the procedure because he was in the defendant’s custody. . He failed at trial.
Held: . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Health, Torts – Other, Negligence
Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.180380