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Medical and mental health law under examination at Northumbria

18th September 2019

Northumbria Law School hosted a one-day research seminar exploring gaps in legal safeguards designed to protect both health service practitioners and patients.

Entitled The Legal Research Agenda for Medicine, Capacity and Mental Health: A Gap Analysis, the seminar was generously funded by The Society of Legal Scholars (SLS) and the North East Court of Protection Practitioners Association (COPPA).  The event marked the relaunch of the Northumbria University Medical and Mental Health Law Research Interest Group MELRIG,  and explored legal areas relating to medicine, capacity and mental health, domestically and internationally. Organised by Senior Lecturer Carole Burrell and Dr Nicola Wake from Northumbria Law School, the event attracted a number of expert speakers including leading academics,  medical professionals and practitioners from the North East Court of Protection Practitioners Association (CoPPA). More than 60 people registered to attend the seminar including academics, students, clinicians, judges, legal practitioners and advocates.  

Commenting on a highly successful event Carole Burrell said: “There are some stark legal shortcomings in the related areas of  medicine,  mental health and capacity and we were able to bring together international and domestic experts to highlight these and describe how both practitioners and patients can suffer injustices as a result. The findings will help with our ongoing research and I am extremely grateful to the Society of Legal Scholars and COPPA for their support and recognising the importance of further study.”

“A key purpose of the research seminar was to help bring about beneficial change to the position of practitioners and patients, including those involved in the criminal justice system, via international collaborations and the adoption of new perspectives.”

The President of the Society of Legal Scholars, Professor Richard Taylor, said: “The Society is delighted to have been able to provide support for this carefully planned event which examines the important safeguards designed to protect those delivering health care and treatment and those receiving it. The potential for academic research to improve the situation at operational level for both healthcare practitioners and patients in medical and mental health contexts  is a powerful incentive for all legal scholars and the Society of Legal Scholars is grateful to the Northumbria Law School for organising this very timely event.”

MELRIG is an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research group at Northumbria Law School with a focus on various aspects of medical law, mental health law and mental capacity law. The relaunch introduced a broadened ambit to MELRIG by introducing mental condition defence issues, and an emphasis on international collaboration.

Supporting this approach, Professor Kris Gledhill, Auckland University of Technology, said:  "Academic lawyers both expound upon what the law is but also make suggestions as to improvements. A key method for the latter part of the endeavour is comparative analyses, for which international collaborations are essential."

Carole Burrell added that in this regard MELRIG is delighted to welcome new international ambassadors Professor Kris Gledhill and Professor Thomas Crofts (University of Sydney and City University of Hong Kong).

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