Skip to main content

Medicine and the Law: Law at the start of life

When considering the question: "The Abortion Act 1967 positions doctors as gatekeepers policing access to abortions, whose judgment will be beyond challenge if made in good faith. Has the Abortion Act 1967 given too much power to the medical profession?" It is instructive to compare the discussion of good faith and the conduct of Dr Smith in the case of R v Smith (John) 1973 1 WLR 1510 with the consultation in following video. The doctor in the video below was not prosecuted under the Act, as it was held that to do so would be against the public interest. What does this tell us about a.) the power of doctors in relation to abortion and b.) changing attititudes to abortion in the UK?


Any students wishing to write an essay on this topic please feel free to email me at n dot l dot byrom at warwick dot ac dot uk to arrange an appointment.


Useful resources:

  • For a first person account of abortion, read Chapter 15 of "How to be a woman" by Caitlin Moran or this article by Lucy Cavendish
  • "Unspeakable Conversations": Article discussing an encounter between Peter Singer (Moral Philosopher) and Harriet McBryde Johnson (Disability Rights Lawyer)
  • July 2013: Parliamentary Inquiry into Abortion on the Grounds of Disability
  • Articles here and here on Zoe's Law: legislation passed in November 2013 in NSW, Australia, granting legal personhood to foetuses over 20 weeks old for the purposes of criminalising harm to late term foetuses who die as a result of injury to their mothers. For the law on abortion in NSW see here.