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No duty of care to family members when diagnosing genetic diseases

Connor Smith and Nicola Claire Louise Smith (as personal representative of the Estate of Callum Smith, deceased) v University of Leicester NHS Trust

The facts of this case were that Neil Caven suffers from Adrenomyeloneuropathy (AMN), a genetic disease.  In 2003 his doctor requested genetic testing which was not carried out.  He was not tested until after his second cousin, Callum Smith was diagnosed in 2006.  Following this diagnosis, Callum’s brother Connor was also tested and diagnosed with the condition.  Mr Caven’s test confirmed that he was a sufferer of the condition and that other family members were ‘at high risk’ of this disorder.  Due to progression of the disease, treatment was no longer beneficial to Callum who died in 2012. 

The applicants alleged that the defendant hospital was in breach of its duty of care by failing to perform tests on Mr Caven which would have led to the testing of the wider family.  This may have improved the outcome for both Callum and Connor as they would have been diagnosed two and a half to three years earlier.

The High Court held that a third party cannot recover damages for a personal injury suffered because of an omission in the treatment of another person.  It held that it would not be fair, just and reasonable on policy grounds to impose a duty of care on the Defendant in respect of those who are not its patients.  The Statement of Case was therefore struck out on the basis that it disclosed no reasonable grounds for bringing the claim.

You can read the UK Human Rights Law blog article here.

Health, Medical Law