Doctors Entitled to Anonymity in End of Life Cases

Doctors and Reporting Restriction Orders in Court Cases

Doctors are entitled to anonymity in cases concerning end of life treatment, as it is in the public interest to ensure that clinical staff are not embroiled in a media storm or harassed by those who might disagree with the clinical care decisions being made. This has been reaffirmed in the case of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust v Namiq & Anor [2020] EWHC 181. (January 2020) 

While open justice was to be encouraged, and the media should be entitled to report on proceedings, nevertheless restriction orders on the identification of treating hospitals and treating clinicians would be considered to be the proper course of action in end of life cases, balancing the various interests at stake, including the right of the clinicians to their own privacy. A failure of the court to issue such a restriction on reporting could lead to clinicians being reluctant to act for patients in cases that might attract adverse criticism in some quarters.

The judge was particularly alert to the potential impact of criticism of clinicians on social media, published by social media users.

As an aside, the judge also drew a distinction between clinicians giving evidence as independent experts and those making clinical decisions in the course of their work, such as hospital employees. The former would be less likely to obtain a reporting restrictions order because they can choose to be an expert in cases and therefore have a choice, when deciding on whether to give an opinion on a case, about whether they will be publicly named.

Making an Application for a RRO: Clinicians, or the hospital that they work for, will need to formally apply to a court for such a a Reporting Restriction Order (RRO) to be made, or to be continued if challenged by family members or members of the press. Each case will turn on its own facts and appropriate evidence in support of the application will need to be submitted to the court.

For legal advice on making an application for a reporting restriction order, contact Doctors Defence Service on 0800 10 88 739

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Doctors Defence Service (DDS) assists medical doctors who are registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) in the United Kingdom (UK) and also those doctors from abroad who wish to register and practise as doctors in the UK. Doctors Defence Service also assists doctors in relation to all other legal issues arising from daily practice and operating businesses in the clinical arena. DDS represents doctors in FTP and IOP GMC proceedings, at inquests, in general civil cases, in commercial and contract law, in revalidation matters, and employment law. Doctors Defence Service can be contacted on 0800 10 88 739. We have main offices in London, Manchester, and Telford. We cover most other UK regions too.