Legal News

The Court of Appeal quashed an optometrist’s manslaughter conviction, because it was based on medical evidence she hadn’t (but should have) looked at.

In a routine eye inspection, the optometrist failed to notice that a seven year old boy had swollen optic disks. An optical consultant/assistant had taken retinal images which clearly showed a problem. However the optometrist seems to have looked at different images by mistake, perhaps of another patient. The boy died five months later of hydrocephalus (excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain).

The Court of Appeal held she was held not guilty of manslaughter. It had to be reasonably foreseeable that her breach of duty gave rise to a serious and obvious risk of death. The court said this must be assessed on her knowledge at the time of the breach of duty, not on the basis of an image (in which the risk was evident) that she didn’t look at even through she should have done. To hold otherwise would have far-reaching implications for doctors.

The court also said that to be guilty of manslaughter the circumstances of the breach must be ‘truly exceptionally bad’

More: Criminal liability of OH practitioners>Manslaughter.

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