Alex Mullock and Catherine Stanton, co-editors of the newly launched festschrift, reflect on the impact of Professor Brazier’s scholarship on healthcare law and practice.
Very few academics come to be described as pioneers in their field but Professor Margaret Brazier, who has been inspiring law students at the University of Manchester since 1970, is a genuinely pioneering academic. Leading the way for future healthcare lawyers, she has been at the forefront of the discipline, seeking to find order among the sometimes muddled strands of legal categories – criminal, tort, public law – that healthcare dilemmas have invoked. As a testament to Margot Brazier’s remarkable body of work, a new book edited by colleagues at the University of Manchester and Monash University, Australia; Pioneering Healthcare Law: Essays in Honour of Margaret Brazier, analyses and debates Brazier’s contribution to healthcare law and ethics.
This collection of essays represents state-of-the-art scholarship in the field and, mindful of Brazier’s commitment to collaboration, the book is a truly collaborative enterprise. The collection begins with a foreword by Lady Hale, who taught Margot as an undergraduate. She notes the ability Margot had then (as now) to ask ‘the most penetrating and challenging questions’. The collection then continues with 25 chapters across 5 sections featuring some of the world’s leading experts in healthcare law and bioethics, who explore Brazier’s most important contributions to healthcare law. In the first section, Key themes in healthcare law are examined. Brazier’s call for autonomy with responsibility inspired Ken Mason and Graeme Laurie’s chapter which examines the ‘shifting sands of autonomy’. Subsequent chapters in this section continue the theme of weighing individual rights and interests against the public interest, looking at compulsory vaccination and end-of-life law and ethics. Sheila MacLean, for example, asks whether Brazier, who, 20 years ago, favoured compromise and caution over legal change on assisted dying, might now have changed her mind.
The second section of the book explores the doctor/patient relationship. Autonomy and responsibility within the therapeutic partnership between doctor and patient are further examined, with a contribution from Hazel Biggs and Suzanne Ost which considers sexual boundaries between doctors and patients. Vulnerability, empowerment and best interests provide the focus for further chapters exploring patient experiences, children and families. The third section on law, ethics and the human body is significantly inspired by Brazier’s work as the Chair of the Retained Organs Commission. For example, Jean McHale reflects on the important role of the Commission in prioritizing respect and consent. A ‘Brazier method’ is identified by Marleen Eijkholt and Ruth Stirton, which could, they argue, be applied to other such legal and ethical dilemmas.
Brazier’s enduring interest in regulating reproduction provides the theme for the fourth section, with contributions that explore research, new reproductive technologies and regulating pregnancy. Finally, the fifth section turns to the criminal law, focusing on Brazier’s recent work on the impact of criminal law. Is the recent expansion of the criminal law, for example, to capture reckless infection (HIV and herpes) and wilful neglect in the medical context, following the scandal at Stafford Hospital, a welcome development? And where the law has gone in the opposite direction, lifting certain prohibitions such as abortion, does such ‘compromise medicalisation’ (discussed in Roger Brownsword and Jefffrey Wale’s chapter) provide a durable and ethically sound solution?
Throughout the book, themes of autonomy with responsibility, principled compromise, and the importance of humanity emerge as being fundamental to Brazier’s insightful, compassionate and pragmatic approach to a range of healthcare dilemmas. As the editors state, Brazier’s ‘pioneering spirit continues to demonstrate to others that they need not flinch from exploring challenging questions, and that to do so in a sensitive manner is not to shy away from robust intellectual enquiry.’
Alex Mullock and Catherine Stanton are members of the Centre for Social Ethics and Policy at the University of Manchester. The Centre provides a series of online and face-to-face programmes for students, researchers and professionals.