The Rise of the French Doctrine of Informed Consent: Criminal Responsibility for an Unauthorised Medical Experiment – The Case of the Antiquaille Hospital and Subsequent Notable Judgments

The Rise of the French Doctrine of Informed Consent: Criminal Responsibility for an Unauthorised Medical Experiment – The Case of the Antiquaille Hospital and Subsequent Notable Judgments
Anatoliy A. Lytvynenko
Athens Journal of Law, 2021; 7 pp 1-14
Open Access
Abstract
The French doctrine regarding a patient’s informed consent has a long and very rich history, dating back at least to the mid-nineteenth century. Medical malpractice had become a frequent subject of criminal trials and civil litigation against physicians and surgeons in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, resulting in French medical case law and its academic scholarship becoming one of the most prominent throughout all the civil law jurisdictions. Simultaneously, medical malpractice lawsuits were not rare in civil or common law jurisdictions. The uniqueness of French jurisprudence lies in the development of a robust body of case law, which formed the basis for patients’ rights, and specifically informed consent and the right to medical data confidentiality. The right to informed consent is a reflection of the patient’s right to their own bodily integrity, which may not be violated for the purpose of treatment, except in an emergency. Moreover, the rule of consent is even stricter if physicians are administering experimental treatment (which is not generally banned, as it may benefit the patient), or conducting certain methods of treatment for purely scientific purposes – as was in the case of the Antiquaille Hospital in Lyon, where a dangerous and experimental method of treatment was used to treat a ten-year-old minor suffering from dermatophytosis, which was not authorised by his guardians. The case, which was adjudicated by the criminal court of Lyon, is historically one of the first legal cases to deal with unconsented treatment conducted for the purpose of a scientific experiment. Over the twentieth century, similar legal cases became more frequent in France.

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