WYNG-Hatton Lecture and Other Videos

“Criminalising Sickness? Liability for the Transmission of Disease” by John Spencer (2014)

#doctors&patients , #wyng-hatton_lecture

Professor John Spencer, University of Cambridge

Dr John Spencer was a professor in the Cambridge University Law Faculty from 1995 until 2013, when on retirement he became a Professor Emeritus. He is an honorary QC, and also holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Poitiers. Through long service he is a life Fellow of Selwyn College Cambridge, and from 1 October he will become a Bye Fellow of Murray Edwards College. During the academic year 2014-15 he will be one of the University’s team of Deputy Vice-Chancellors.

His range of interests include criminal law and the law of tort, and through these, medical law. In the context of the WYNG Foundation and the Hatton Trust’s recent benefaction to the Cambridge Law Faculty he will be the Hatton-WYNG Medical Law, Ethics and Policy Programme Distinguished Adviser, and Chair of the Faculty Medical Law, Ethics and Policy Committee.

PowerPoint Slides:
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Is it possible to incur civil or criminal liability for transmitting your illness to another person? And as a matter of principle, should it be possible?In recent years this topic has generated a heated discussion in the UK. Ten years ago, the Criminal Division of the (English) Court of Appeal held that a person may commit the statutory offence of maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm if, knowing he is HIV positive, he has unprotected sexual intercourse with someone who is unaware of his condition, and thereby infects them.

Whilst welcomed by some, this ruling has been sharply criticised by others. They say that it is unfair to penalise the sick, and they argue that, at least in certain situations, the responsibility for preventing the spread of infection should rest upon the shoulders of the well – who should take steps to avoid catching the disease – rather than on the sick, to avoid spreading it.

In his lecture Professor Spencer will examine this debate and give his views on the merits of the respective arguments.

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