Welcome

The Family and Medical Law Research Group covers many aspects of what makes life valuable. The research conducted by Faculty postholders, postdoctoral researchers, and research students covers a wide array of topics. You can read more about the research projects of various faculty members here. To read more about our graduate research students and their projects, and for an overview of completed DPhil projects see here. An overview of various recorded lectures, interviews and podcasts may be found here.

The research group offers courses at the undergraduate and graduate level. 'Family law' and 'medical law and ethics' may be offered as options to undergraduate students during their Final Honours School. Graduate students on the BCL and MJur have the option to take 'Medical Law and Ethics'.

Publications

  • Laura Hoyano, Hoyano & Keenan's Child Abuse Law and Policy across Boundaries by Laura Hoyano (2nd edition (this edition being single authored by Laura Hoyano) Oxford University Press 2021) (forthcoming)
  • L Ferguson and E Brake, 'Introduction: The Importance of Theory to Children’s and Family Law' in Elizabeth Brake and Lucinda Ferguson (eds), Philosophical Foundations of Children's and Family Law (Oxford University Press 2018) (forthcoming)
    What defines family law? Is it an area of law with clean boundaries and unified distinguishing characteristics, or an untidy grouping of disparate rules and doctrines? What values or principles should guide it – and how could it be improved? Indeed, even the scope of family law is contested. Whilst some law schools and textbooks separate family law from children’s law, this is invariably effected without asking what might be gained or lost from treating them together or separately. Should family law and children’s law be distinguished or treated together? One would expect disagreement on these questions in any context. In bringing together theorists from multiple jurisdictions and at least two primary disciplines, we should not be surprised to find deep differences in approach reflecting different methodologies and foundational questions. The tension between them, we hope, can illuminate and enrich discussion on all sides. Further, through combining insights from law and philosophy, we also intend to add another layer to the current trend to focus on the empirical in family law research, and highlight how critical debates in children’s and family law are at once theoretical and empirical in nature. Understanding the nature and content of a child’s “best interests” as contained in multiple jurisdictions’ legal frameworks regulating private and/or public law concerning children, for example, requires us to approach the matter both conceptually – in order to adjudicate between frameworks – and in terms of fit with evidence from research. This immediately makes any satisfactory resolution more uncertain, contested, and subject to criticism. It is in this context that we hope that the conversations between law and philosophy, their points of agreement and divergence, can advance stalled debates. International differences correspond, of course, to differences in law, policy, and procedure. Contrast, for example, England and Wales’ ‘single pot’ approach to the distribution of property and maintenance upon marriage breakdown to the more common, “pillarised” treatment of matrimonial property, pensions, and maintenance. The difference in system design necessarily affects the available potential justifications. As a more nuanced aspect of the impact of system design, one might consider the normative difficulties created by the variation in default regimes adopted in relation to matrimonial (or marital) property between US states. Facing jurisdictional differences – like considering historical changes within one’s own jurisdiction – can yield an awareness of the context-specificity of one’s own starting points. And awareness of how things are done differently can lead us to call into question our own ways of doing things. Such awareness might alert us to unintended consequences of legislation or to innovative solutions. And, more fundamentally, it might cause us to interrogate what we take as the core, the normal, or even the natural. This is where philosophical investigation becomes indispensable. In Section II, we outline a number of respects in which the approaches taken by (academic) lawyers and philosophers writing in this field tend to differ, as well as how the structure of this collection seeks to cut across and highlight both these divergences and shared accounts. In Section III, we introduce the key themes that underpin the collection, which demonstrate the potential for cross-fertilisation between legal contexts as well as between legal and philosophical perspectives. When we refer to ‘lawyers’ and ‘philosophers’, we have in mind those working in family law and children’s law in particular.
  • I Goold, Jonathan Herring and Cressida Auckland (eds), Parental Rights, Best Interests and Significant Harms: Medical Decision-Making on Behalf of Children Post-Great Ormond Street Hospital v Yates (Hart Publishing 2019)
    In the wake of the Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans cases, a wide-ranging international conversation was started regarding alternative thresholds for intervention and the different balances that can be made in weighing up the rights and interests of the child, the parent's rights and responsibilities and the role of medical professionals and the courts. This collection provides a comparative perspective on these issues by bringing together analysis from a range of jurisdictions across Europe, North and South America, Africa and Asia. Contextualising the differences and similarities, and drawing out the cultural and social values that inform the approach in different countries, this volume is highly valuable to scholars across jurisdictions, not only to inform their own local debate on how best to navigate such cases, but also to foster inter-jurisdictional debate on the issues. The book brings together commentators from the fields of law, medical ethics, and clinical medicine across the world, actively drawing on the view from the clinic as well as philosophical, legal and sociological perspectives on the crucial question of who should decide about the fate of a child suffering from a serious illness. In doing so, the collection offers comprehensive treatment of the key questions around whether the current best interests approach is still appropriate, and if not, what the alternatives are. It engages head-on with the concerns seen in both the academic and popular literature that there is a need to reconsider the orthodoxy in this area
  • HR Robinson, 'Abortion on the Basis of a Risk of Disability: The Parents’ Interests and Shared Interests' in AM Phillips, TC de Campos and J Herring (eds), The Philosophical Foundations of Medical Law (Oxford University Press 2019)
  • I Goold and Kelly, Catherine, 'Who's Afraid of Imaginary Claims? Common Misunderstandings of the Origin of the Action for Pure Psychiatric Injury in Negligence 1888–1943' (2021) Law Quarterly Review (forthcoming)
  • domestic abuse and human rights
    J J W Herring, Domestic Abuse and Human Rights (Intersentia 2020)
    Domestic Abuse and Human Rights presents an overview of the relevance of the European Convention on Human Rights to domestic abuse. It will have three aims: first, to consider the relevant case law and application of the key articles to questions around domestic abuse; second, to consider at a theoretical level the balancing between protection and autonomy at the heart of the legal response to domestic abuse; third, to propose practical application of a human rights approach to issues around domestic abuse, with particular emphasis placed on the significance of the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women.
    ISBN: 9781780682310
  • Bromley's Family Law
    Nigel Lowe, Gillian Douglas, Emma Hitchings and Rachel Taylor, Bromley's Family Law (12th OUP 2021)
    ISBN: 9780198806691
  • Shona Minson and C. Flynn, 'Symbiotic Harms of Imprisonment and the Effect on Children’s Right to Family Life: Comparing the Impact of Covid-19 Prison Visiting Restrictions in the UK and Australia' (2021) 29 (2) International Journal of Children's Rights 305
    DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/15718182-29020011
    Measures taken by governments to address covid-19 in prisons, have impacted significantly on the lives and rights of children. There has been consequential interference with children’s rights to family life and to contact with a parent from whom they have been separated. Since the onset of the pandemic, prisoners in many jurisdictions have lived under restricted regimes with almost universal bans on family visits. Children have not had face-to-face contact with their imprisoned parents, and alternate forms of contact have not always been available to them. Using survey and interview data collected during lockdowns in the UK and Australia, we consider the implications of the interference with the rights of children with an imprisoned parent. Focusing on their relationships, health and wellbeing and using the concept of symbiotic harms, we note how children’s experiences of the cessation of contact interacted with parents’ and caregivers’ experiences, amplifying the harms to children.