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Vol 23 No 5 May/June 2018

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The Interfaces of Medicine and Law

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Danuta MendelsonSchool of Law, Deakin University, Australia

ISBN13: 9781855219243
ISBN: 1855219247
Published: March 1999
Publisher: Routledge
Country of Publication: USA
Format: Hardback
Price: Out of print

This is a discursive exploration of conceptual developments in law and medicine in England and Australia over 200 years, refracted through the prism of psychiatric injury and its legal sequelae.

The book begins with an exposition of the history of liability for negligently occasioned harm, and examines social and medical factors which militated against admittance of psychic harm as a separate head of compensation. It then traces the evolution of liability for nervous shock, from its beginnings in Melbourne in 1886 to some reported and unreported cases in England and Australia in 1997.

The cases are analyzed against the background of developments that were taking place in medical science and psychiatry. There is an outline of the original medical literature describing severe, often disabling reactions to life-threatening events which involve either minimal or no actual physical contact with the sufferer's body, and the scientific endeavours to explain this phenomenon.

The tort of negligence and the evolution of its constituent elements are analyzed from the perspective of major developments in physiology, neuroanatomy, psychoanalysis and psychiatry.

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The concept of nervous shock - the common law, witchcraft, and medicine; Professor Erichsen and shock occasioned by railway collisions; Coultas v Victorian Railway Commissioners and the law of injury consequential upon fright; legal responses to the Coultas decision; traumatic neurosis, shellshock and nervous shock; the 1930s - Donoghur v Stevenson, the American law of emotional distress and the case of an overturned coffin; employees, mothers and liability for nervous shock in Australia - bystanders in the House of Lords; ""law, marching with medicine but at the rear and limping a little"" in the post World War II period; Jaensch v Coffey and the new notion of proximity; post 1984 developments in medical science and Alcock Ors v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police; aspects of the law governing recovery of damages for mere psychiatric injury; medical and legal developments in the late 1990s - not quite a full circle.