R v Adomako [1995] 1 A.C. 171


The defendant, Mr Adomako, was an anaesthetist. He was undertaking his role during an eye operation during which the patient was required to be placed under a general anaesthetic. During the operation, and whilst under Mr. Adomako’s supervision, a crucial tube became disconnected from the ventilator and the patient suffered a fatal cardiac arrest. Mr Adomako was convicted of the manslaughter by breach of duty.


Mr Adomako appealed the conviction and questioned the legal basis of involuntary manslaughter by breach of duty.


Dismissing Mr Adomako’s appeal, it was held that in cases of manslaughter by criminal negligence involving a breach of duty the ordinary principles of the law of negligence applied to ascertain whether the defendant had been in breach of a duty of care to the victim. On the establishment of said breach of duty the next question was that of establishing causation and, and if this could be so established, whether it should be characterised as gross negligence and therefore a crime. This is ultimately a question for the jury, having regard to the risk of death involved, asking themselves ‘was the defendant’s conduct so bad in all the circumstances that it ought to amount to criminal?’