(a) Penelope, aged 65, has suffered from schizophrenia for most of her adult life. Penelope’s son took her to see a doctor because she was complaining of severe abdominal pain and was losing weight. After preliminary investigations and a referral to see a consultant, the doctors believe she may have cancer of the uterus and they recommend exploratory surgery. Penelope denies that she has cancer and refuses surgery saying that the doctors ‘just want to use her for their experiments.’ The medical team wishes to know whether they need a court order before they can operate. They also anticipate that she will physically resist treatment and want to know if a sedative can lawfully be administered to her at home so that she can be brought to the hospital without a struggle.
b) Spencer, a competitive street dancer, developed sciatica, which involves compression of a spinal nerve causing pain and which affected his ability to walk. Spencer’s General Practitioner (GP) referred him to Mr. Alvez, a neurosurgeon who works for the local NHS Trust. Mr. Alvez recommended surgery. Mr. Alvez says that, when he first met Spencer for a consultation, he asked Spencer whether he had any questions about the operation, and Spencer said ‘No, I don’t think so. I’ve already checked it out on the internet. Despite the operation being performed by Mr. Alvez with reasonable care, Spencer suffered damage to a nerve in his leg that has resulted in ongoing pain and significantly reduced ability to walk unaided. The risk of this type of nerve damage occurs in around 2 percent of cases. Spencer wishes to sue Mr. Alvez and says that, had he known about this risk of permanent damage to a nerve in his leg, he thinks he would not have consented to the operation and would have persisted with physiotherapy and other non-surgical treatments for longer. Mr. Alvez says that he assumed that Spencer was aware of the various treatment options and their respective risks.