Oxford Medical Law conference at Wadham College

28th September 2017

I was very pleased to attend this conference in Oxford with my colleague Jackie O’Rourke. This was my first attendance but will certainly not be my last.

The venue was exceptional in light of the beautiful grounds. The catering was excellent and lunch in Wadham Hall was very impressive. It is also excellent networking to meet both claimant and defendant colleagues as well as medical professionals. John de Bono QC from Serjeants Inn chaired the day with Mr Richard Stacey.

The programme began with Professor Jenny Taylor who directs the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre Genetics Theme. This aims to bring together genetics research communities, doctors and healthcare professionals in the NHS. Genetics is now being used as a causation defence in high-value cases and it was very interesting to hear Professor Taylor consider the pros and cons of genetic testing in clinical negligence cases.

Dr Nelly Ninis is a consultant paediatrician at St Mary’s and is an expert in relation to meningitis and sepsis in children. Her presentation was very informative and stressed the importance of early diagnosis of both conditions to ensure the best possible outcome. It was suggested that she should train all trusts in the NHS to provide the same level of understanding, of the implications, of early signs and symptoms which are not always picked up as indicative of a much more severe condition.

Charlene François is a midwife and was Director of Midwifery and Gynaecology at St George’s Hospital in London. She provided a very interesting insight two years following the Montgomery decision. She referred to cases that she has dealt with where the clinicians were still failing to allow input from the mother into treatment options or decisions in the way that it was felt they should be.

Dr David Burling is a super-specialist radiologist in bowel and pelvic floor anatomy. He works at St Mark’s hospital in London as a consultant gastrointestinal radiologist. He suggested that the more experienced and specialist the radiologist is the more likely they are to be able to fully assess the radiology. He stressed the importance of having a specialist for the particular area of anatomy that is under scrutiny. Unfortunately, there are very few super-specialist radiologists in the country at the present time.

Mr Richard Stacey provided a very interesting insight into the private sector. He is a Consultant Neurosurgeon and has been involved with governance of private hospitals. The recent case of Mr Paterson was discussed and whether this will change how private hospitals are governed in the future. We will have to wait and see.

John De Bono considered Roberts v Johnstone and the decision in JR V Sheffield where no damages were awarded for accommodation following the change in the discount rate in February this year. It appears we are no further forward as a definitive decision has not been made as to how cases can be presented at trial. The possibility of a further change in the discount rate suggests that defendants will try and wait until that takes place; whereas claimant lawyers will want to try and ensure settlement before then to enable the best possible outcome for their clients.

Frances McClenaghan was called to the Bar 2009. She worked at the Law commission and as a judicial assistant for Lord Kerr in the Supreme Court. She provided a very useful summary of the most important decisions so far in 2017.

This was a very interesting, informative and social event which allowed excellent interaction between the experts, lawyers, medical insurer and trust representatives. The speed dating of the experts provided an opportunity to ask specific questions to each of the speakers. Unfortunately, too many questions and too little time. I very much look forward to attending this seminar again in the future.