Crime XXXXI – Involuntary Manslaughter IV

It’s normally difficult to convict a doctor for involuntary manslaughter and in most instances all the doctor has to do is to established that he or she was acting in a manner that was reasonable or in a manner that is accepted by some recognized school of medicine. The law without doubt favors medical practitioners and that is because doctors need some degree of flexibility and they may not be able to perform their duties efficiently if they were constantly afraid of being sued and therefore to be successful in a case against a doctor the defense not only has to establish that the doctor’s actions were out of the norm but was off the mark by some degree. That exception however does not apply to nurses and those that administer anesthetics.

In R v Bateman (1925) a doctor was charged with manslaughter for causing the death of a woman in his care who died during childbirth. It was held that in order for the doctor to be convicted of manslaughter the scope of negligence or the negligent act must not be something that may be defined as trivial or shortsightedness but must be an act that goes well beyond that or negligence that could be described as serious. The doctor was found to be not guilty.

In cases like R v Bateman (1925) it is also worth looking at the time when the incident occurred i.e. in 1925 when the medical facilities were nothing like they are today and if the facts were to reoccur in this day and age the judge might decide differently.

With regards to dangerous driving one might well ask the question what level of dangerous driving is required to obtain a conviction and the answer is as long as the act does not fall with the scope or sphere of the de minimis rule i.e. as long as the act cannot be described as trivial or inconsequential than the accused will be held liable.

Therefore the prosecution is not looking at the severity of the accused’s act but rather seeks to establish that the negligent act of the accused cannot be dismissed as minor, trivial or inconsequential. In R v Hennigan (1971) the accused was driving too fast and as a result drove into the side of another car. Two passengers were killed in the accident that followed and the accused was held to be guilty. As long as the act of the accused can be deemed or termed as being dangerous then the accused will be liable.

In R v Stone and Dobinson (1977) we once again examine the duty that arises when there is a voluntary undertaking of responsibility i.e. when the accused has on his or her own accord decided to care for someone who is ill who is no longer able to care for his or her self. The accused invited his sister to live with him and his mistress because she was unable to take care of herself.

The accused and his mistress failed to take care of his sister in the manner that was required and she died as a result. The accused and his mistress were found to be guilty.

In this particular instance the accused himself needed a carer because he was elderly and could not live on his own but the court nevertheless decided that he and his mistress were guilty. The bottom-line here is if one chooses to care for another than he or she will be held liable or accountable for not carrying out his or her duties diligently or in the manner that was required.

The test for reckless driving was laid down in the case of R v Lawrence (1981). In R v Lawrence (1981) the accused was riding his motorbike and while doing so he ran into a pedestrian who was subsequently killed as a result of the accident. The accused was charged. The court held that in order for the rider or the driver to be guilty of manslaughter the following criteria or requirements must be satisfied:-

1) The accused was riding or driving in a manner that created an obvious and serious risk to other road users and property.

2) The rider or the driver by riding or driving in the manner he or she did, did not give thought to the risk or having given it some thought dismissed it.

The accused was found to be not guilty.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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