Criminal Liability in a Medical Context: the Treatment of Good Intentions

Andrew Ashworth

in Harm and Culpability

Published in print August 1996 | ISBN: 9780198260578
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682124 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Monographs on Criminal Law and Justice

Criminal Liability in a Medical Context: the Treatment of Good Intentions

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When the criminal courts have to decide issues involving the conduct of medical practitioners, the general doctrines of the criminal law are sometimes subjected to considerable strain. The standard formulation of intention in criminal law texts consists of either acting in order to bring about the prohibited result or, if the actor's purpose is otherwise, acting with awareness that the result is virtually certain to follow. This chapter examines how English courts have dealt with claims that certain conduct is justified on medical grounds and how the criminal law should deal with such claims. It discusses the concepts of recklessness, intention, exculpation, criminal liability, defence, the role of patient consent, reasonableness, proof of purpose, and the interface between criminal law and medical law.

Keywords: criminal law; medical law; intention; recklessness; exculpation; criminal liability; defence; consent; reasonableness; proof of purpose

Chapter.  10721 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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