Law and Legacy in Medical Jurisprudence: Essays in Honour of Graeme Laurie, edited by Edward Dove and Niamh Nic Shuibhne, includes 18 essays that explore legacy in its various forms, and in various contexts, drawing on the many impacts and innovations to date of medical jurisprudence pioneer, Graeme Laurie.
The volume does three things particularly well. Firstly, it serves as a Festschrift honouring a great scholar. Laurie recently stepped down from the Chair of Medical Jurisprudence at the University of Edinburgh to pursue other projects. His intellectual legacy is profound, and whilst he has written on almost every medical law issue he is particularly well known for his work on liminality, human tissue, genetic privacy and information governance, and his co-authored text book on medical law. His contribution to the next generation of scholars is equally impressive, and fortunately is set to continue in his role of Professorial Fellow.
Secondly, the volume offers insightful commentary on wide-ranging medico-legal issues. The chapters focus on medical research, biobanking, tissue, ectogenesis, surrogacy, assisted suicide and other substantive issues. This is evidence of the breadth of Laurie’s engagement, and the impressive list of contributors, each renowned in their field, is testament to how well Laurie is respected and admired. The insights are original and far ranging and they are insightfully assimilated by the editors in the Introduction.
Thirdly, the book offers a conceptual analysis of the many dimensions of legacy and uses this as an analytical lens on the evolution of medical jurisprudence. Health law and medical law programmes are flourishing around the world, but their scope and nomenclature is often debated. Laurie championed the importance of interdisciplinarity through engagement with ethics, medicine, humanities and the social sciences, as well as with social, political and economic contexts. The book also sets out some of the limits of medical law, wherein the jurisprudential issue at play is almost always part of a bigger picture. In an Afterword to the book, Lawrence Gostin says:
The field of ‘medical jurisprudence’, to use the University of Edinburgh parlance, has come a long way. It is not just about medicine and what happens in the clinic; it also explores health systems, including public health systems. It is not just about health systems, but also upstream social and commercial determinants of health. And it is not just all-of-government, but also all-of-society.
The volume charts an expansion of medical jurisprudence from a focus on doctors to a focus on health systems, driven in part by an increasingly interdisciplinary focus but also by events such as medical scandals and the COVID-19 pandemic. The volume notes that negative jurisprudential legacies can flow from incremental legal decision-making or event-focused reforms. These, in turn, can encumber medical jurisprudence, preventing its development in line with changing societal values.
Laurie’s work on liminality challenges the regulations that keep the boundaries in place. Where a regulatory provision is no longer fit for purpose, recognition of liminal spaces allows the landscape to be reimagined, the spaces between boundaries explored ,and boundaries to be broken down. A good example is found in laws governing 16–18-year-olds. Recasting them in a shared ‘liminal’ space between adulthood and childhood can help to explain laws that allow them to consent but not necessarily to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment.
Legacy is collective as well as individual; negative as well as positive. The reader is left with an appreciation of Laurie’s individual legacy and his contribution to the collective legacy of medical jurisprudence. Particularly importantly for me, the collection of essays provides valuable insight into how that legacy might be positively developed through Laurie’s example of interdisciplinarity, innovation, collaboration, and boldness.