Airedale NHS Trust v Bland [1993] A.C. 789


Airedale NHS Trust v Bland [1993] A.C. 789 is a Criminal Law case concerning Homicide Offences.


In the case of Bland there was a person who could not move or do anything. He was kept alive by machines and was fed by tubes. Since the patient could not give or withhold consent to medical treatment, it was for the doctors to decide whether treatment was in the patient’s best interest. It was reasonable for them to conclude that treatment was not in the patients best interest, and should therefore be stopped, when there was no prospect of improvement.


The main issue in Airedale NHS Trust v Bland [1993] A.C. 789:

Doctors asked court if they would they be liable of murder if they stop feeding him.


Court said that yes, Bland was still a person but that would be underlying medical treatment that would have killed him and doctors would not be liable of murder.

Exception as a special common law defence: Lord Goff – Case of Bland:
The established rule that a doctor may, when caring for a patient who is, for example dying of cancer, lawfully administer painkilling drugs, despite the fact he knows that an incidental effect of that application will be to terminate the patient’s life.


[1993] A.C. 789, [1993] 2 W.L.R. 316, [1993] 1 All E.R. 821, [1993] 2 WLUK 69, [1993] 1 F.L.R. 1026, [1994] 1 F.C.R. 485, [1993] 4 Med. L.R. 39, (1993) 12 B.M.L.R. 64, [1993] Fam. Law 473, (1993) 143 N.L.J. 199, Times, February 5, 1993, Independent, February 5, 1993, Guardian, February 5, 1993, [1993] C.L.Y. 2712

Read our notes on Homicide Offences and other cases for more information.

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