Wards of Court: New Practice Direction Regarding Medical Reports
14 October 2020
The President of the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, recently issued a practice direction, which sets out the information that should be included in any medical reports or medical affidavits in support of a wardship application.
The application to admit a person to the High Court’s wardship jurisdiction is by way of petition. These petitions are typically supported by the reports of two registered medical practitioners. Reports are prepared after a medical examination. Examinations must have been carried out within three months of the presentation of the petition.
The following information must now be included in each medical report:
- The date of the medical examination
- The place of the medical examination
- The duration of the medical examination
- The circumstances in which the medical examination was carried out
- The nature and length of any prior relationship between the doctor and the patient
- Details of any medical tests administered
Crucially, the medical practitioner must state whether or not, in their professional opinion, the proposed ward is of unsound mind and incapable of managing their affairs. If this is the case, the report should outline:
- The nature of the illness or incapacity
- The approximate date of onset of the illness or incapacity
- The symptoms of the illness or incapacity
- The medical evidence relied on by the medical practitioner
- The permanency or otherwise of the illness or incapacity
Once completed, the medical report must be exhibited by way of medical affidavit, which must be sworn within one month of the medical examination.
This practice direction clearly demands a high level of detail be included in medical reports prepared in support of wardship petitions. Parties requesting medical reports for this purpose should ensure the medical practitioner is properly instructed on the new requirements. It will also be important to ensure that the time limits are observed, to avoid the application being rejected by the Wards of Court office, which would cause unnecessary delay.
To discuss your related queries, contact a member of our Health & Prosecutions team.
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