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Legal aspects of clinical ethics committees
  1. Judith Hendrick
  1. Oxford Brookes University, Oxford


    In an increasingly litigious society where ritual demands for accountability and “taking responsibility” are now commonplace, it is not surprising that members of clinical ethics committees (CECs) are becoming more aware of their potential legal liability. Yet the vulnerability of committee members to legal action is difficult to assess with any certainty. This is because the CECs which have been set up in the UK are—if the American experience is followed—likely to vary significantly in terms of their functions, procedures, composition, structures and authority. As a consequence it is difficult to generalise about the legal implications. Nevertheless, despite these difficulties this article will outline the broad legal principles governing the potential liability of committee members. It will also consider the relationship between CECs and the courts. It begins, however, with a brief analysis of the relationship between ethics and law in committee deliberations, and in particular of the role of law and legal expertise on CECs.

    • Clinical ethics committees
    • ethics
    • law
    • lawyers
    • courts
    • liability

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    • Judith Hendrick, BA, LLM, is a Solicitor, and a Senior Lecturer in Law at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford.

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