Book Review: “Medical Treatment: Decisions and the Law”

Medical Treatment: Decisions and the Law (Edited by Christopher Johnston QC, Bloomsbury, 2016, paperback and ebook, £110)

The third edition of this textbook has just come out. Edited by Christopher Johnston QC along with others at Serjeants’ Inn Chambers, it can rightly claim to be the authoritative practitioner text for medical treatment cases.  The book starts with a concise but expert overview of the relevant legal principles relating to medical treatment of both adults and children (including consideration of the implications of the Supreme Court decision in Montgomery).   The chapter that follows, chapter 5, on going to court (whether the High Court or the Court of Protection) is to my mind a real tour de force.  Drawing on the very substantial wealth of experience of the authorial team in medical treatment cases involving both adults and children, the chapter provides all the practical assistance that one could require safely to navigate the legal minefields in this area.  Following an expanded chapter on restraint and deprivation of liberty, the book then has a series of useful chapters relating to specific issues such as sterilisation or end of life cases.  Amongst an ample range of supporting materials the large range of extremely practical precedent orders stands out.  The book is admirably current, including (for instance) a note that the Ferreira cases about deprivation of liberty in the ICU sitting is before the Court of Appeal in December, and as with the previous edition, updates are provided on the Serjeants’ Inn website.

Issues relating to medical treatment can be difficult and complex, as well as emotive.  See, for example, the reaction to Baker J’s Shrieval lecture and the resulting furore about advanced decisions (on which note, I am reassured to see that the authors of this book take the same view as I do that a valid and applicable ADRT negates the need to go to the Court of Protection save in the event of doubt as to its validity or applicability).   It is also the case that there have been too many cases before the Court of Protection where applications have been brought up without a proper consideration of the evidence, leading to undue delay and emotional stress for the families involved.   This book should therefore find its way speedily into the hands of Trust lawyers and those who advise Trusts and CCGs, so as to assist the further development of good practice.  It should also find its way into the hands of anyone else who is concerned to understand how the law and medicine interact in practice.

[Full disclosure: I am grateful to the publishers for providing me with a copy of this book. I am always happy to review works in or related to the field of mental capacity (broadly defined)]

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