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Dignity, Body Parts, and the Actio Iniuriarum: A Novel Solution to a Common (Law) Problem?

  • JONATHAN BROWN

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Notes

1. Foster, C. Dignity and the ownership and use of body parts. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 2014;23(4):417–30.

2. Foster, C. Dignity and the use of body parts. Journal of Medical Ethics 2014;40(1):44–7.

3. See note 2, Foster 2014, at 45.

4. Mirko, B, James, A. The vacuous concept of dignity. Journal of Human Rights 2006;257:269.

5. For Scotland, see Stevens v. Yorkhill NHS Trust 2006 S.L.T. 889; for South Africa, see Le Roux v. Dey [2011] ZACC4.

6. McKenzie, NK. The actio iniuriarum in Scots law: Romantic Romanism, or tool for today? In: Descheemaeker, E, Scott, H, eds. Iniuria and the Common Law. Oxford and Portland, Oregon: Hart; 2013.

7. See Brown, J. Revenge porn and the actio iniuriarum: Using ‘old law’ to solve ‘new problems.’ Legal Studies 2018;38(3):396410.

8. Neethling J, Potgieter JM, Visser PJ. Law of Delict (4th Edition). Durban: Butterworths; 2001, at 8.

9. W Leage, R., Leage’s Roman Law, London: MacMillan and Co., 1909:417; Dig. 47.10.2.

10. Reid EC. Personality, Confidentiality and Privacy in Scots Law, W. Green, 2010 para.1.02.

11. Descheemaeker, E, Scott, H. Iniuria and the Common Law. Oxford and Portland, Oregon: Hart; 2013, at 13.

12. Foster C. Human Dignity in Bioethics and Law. Oxford and Portland, Oregon: Hart Publishing; 2011, at 1.

13. As defined by Descheemaeker and Scott: See Descheemaeker, Eric and Scott, Helen, Iniuria and the Common Law, Oxford and Portland, Oregon: Hart; 2013:1.

14. Laurie G. Personality, Privacy and Autonomy in Medical Law; Whitty NR, Zimmerman R. Rights of Personality in Scots Law: A Comparative Perspective, Dundee: DUP, 2009:454–5

15. Kilbrandon L. The Law of Privacy in Scotland. Cambrian Law Review 1971;31:38.

16. Per Justinian’s Digest, the action serves to remedy “every iniuria which is inflicted against the person or relates to one’s dignity or involves disgrace” – Dig. 47.10.1.2.

17. Dig. 47.10.1.2.

18. Voet, De Injuriis, IV, 4:58.

19. Bede, H. A Roman law solution to an eternal problem: A proposed new dignitary tort to remedy sexual harassment. Alternative Law Journal 2017;200:202.

20. See Ibbetson, D. A Historical Introduction to the Law of Obligations. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1999:14–7.

21. See note 8, Law of Delict, at 14.

22. See note 19, Harris 2017, at 202.

23. Whitty, NR. Overview of rights of personality in Scots Law. In: Whitty, NR, Zimmerman, R, eds. Rights of Personality in Scots Law: A Comparative Perspective. Dundee: Dundee University Press; 2009, at 159.

24. Burchell, J. Personality rights in South Africa: Reaffirming dignity. In: Whitty, NR, Zimmerman, R, eds. Rights of Personality in Scots Law: A Comparative Perspective. Dundee: Dundee University Press; 2009.

25. Per Mr Justice O’Regan in S v. Makwanyane 1995 (3) SA 391 (CC), p.328.

26. The New Oxford Dictionary of English. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2001.

27. I.e., one may not feel subjectively affronted by objectively wrongful conduct.

28. See note 23, Whitty 2009, at 160.

29. See note 1, Foster 2014, at 418.

30. See note 2, Foster 2014, at 45.

31. See note 1, Foster 2014, at 418.

32. The principle can supposedly be traced back to Coke, but it is doubtful that he ever intended to establish this rule. Nevertheless, in the case of R v. Sharpe [1857] it was established that a dead body could not be the object of theft in criminal law by dint of this principle and in Williams v. Williams (1882) it was accepted that the ‘no property’ rule was operative within English Civil law as well.

33. See Wall J. Being and Owning. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2015:1.

34. See note 1, Foster 2014, at 421.

35. See Beyleveld D. Human Dignity in Bioethics and Biolaw. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2001, passim; Schroeder D, Bani-Sadr A-H. Dignity in the 21st Century Middle East and West. Springer; 2017, passim.

36. Such was recognised by the Scottish Institutional writer Viscount Stair, who lamented “yea, there be innumerable such acts which the malice and cruelty of men can invent”: Stair, Institutes, IV, 40, 26.

37. See note 5, Le Roux v. Dey.

38. Sir Alexander Seton, Lord Pitmedden, Treatise of Mutilation and Demembration and their Punishments, in Sir George MacKenzie, Matters Criminal, 2nd Ed., Edinburgh: Andrew Anderson, 1699:21–2 (§64).

39. Sub Nom Re Organ Retention Litigation EWHC, 2004.

40. See R v. Kelly [1999] QB 621.

41. 2006 SLT 889.

42. Pollock v. Workman (1900) SLT 338 (IH, (2 Div.)); Conway v. Dalziel (1901) 9 SLT 85 (IH (1 Div.)); Hughes v Robertson 1913 SC 394 (IH (1 Div.)).

43. “Final Report” of the Independent Review Group on Retention of Organs at Post-Mortem (Nov 2001) (available at http://www.show.scot.nhs.uk/scotorgrev/), para.9.

44. See note 43, Final Report, para.14.

45. See note 1, Foster, 2014, at 417.

46. Whitty NR. Rights of personality, property rights and the human body in Scots law Edinburgh Law Review 2005;9(2):194–237, at 235–6.

47. See note 46, Whitty 2005, at 235–6.

48. Blackie, J. Unity in Diversity In: Whitty, NR, Zimmerman, R, eds. Rights of Personality in Scots Law: A Comparative Perspective. Dundee: Dundee University Press; 2009, at 38.

49. See note 38, Pitmedden, 1699:21–2 (§64).

50. See note 42, Pollock v. Workman 1990.

51. The Common law tradition itself has the capacity to recognise the indefinable nature of this wrongdoing using the language of ‘dignity’—in the case of Larson v. Chase, the Supreme Court of Minnesota recognized that such wrongs are to be considered actionable: “it would be a reproach to the law if a plaintiff’s right to recover for mental anguish, resulting from the mutilation or other disturbance of the remains of his dead, should be made to depend upon whether, in committing the act, the defendant also committed a technical trespass upon plaintiff’s premises, while everybody’s common sense would tell him that the real and substantial wrong was not the trespass on the land, but the indignity to the dead” per Mitchell J., Larson v. Chase (1891) 47 Minn. 307.

52. See D.47.10.1.4–6.

53. Bankton, Institute, I, 10, 29.

54. 1947 3 SA 713 (O).

55. 1948 3 SA 982 (T).

56. See Jones, I. Offence a grave: Corpse desecration and the criminal law. Legal Studies 2017;37(4):599620, at 599–601.

57. R v. Sephuma 1948 3 SA 982 (T), at 383.

58. See Christison, A, Hoctor, S. Criminalisation of the violation of a grave and the violation of a dead body. Obiter 2007;28(1):2343, at 35–6.

59. Kemp G, ed. Criminal Law in South Africa, 2nd Ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2016.

60. See Midgley JR, Van Der Walt JC. Principles of Delict, 4th Ed. LexisNexis; 2016.

61. S v. Sewaya 2004 (1) SACR 387 (T); S v Hoho 2009 (1) SACR 276 (SCA). This assertion may be questioned as it does not appear to be an aspect of all cases of crimen injuria: See note 24, Burchell, 2009, fn.15.

62. See note 58, Midgely, Van Der Walt 2009, at 35–6.

63. See note 58, Midgely, Van Der Walt 2009, at 35–6.

64. For instances of crimen iniuria in South Africa and Namibia, see (e.g.) Ieperen v. The State [2016] A194/2016 (South Africa) Joseph Shonale v. The State CA 61/2016 (Namibia).

65. H.M Advocate v Devlin [2004] GWD 285.

66. See Brown J. Res religiosae and the Roman roots of the crime of violation of sepulchres. Edinburgh Law Review 22(3):347–67.

67. Dig.47.12, Cod.9.19.

68. See note 13, Iniuria and the Common Law, at 13.

69. Indeed, significant doctrines have previously been introduced to English law by means of Scottish cases: Consider the infamous Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] UKHL 100.

70. See note 13, Iniuria and the Common Law, at 1.

71. See du Bois F. Harassment: A wrong without a right. In: Descheemaeker E, Scott H, eds. Iniuria and the Common Law. Oxford and Portland, Oregon: Hart; 2013, passim.

72. Smith SC. When the truth hurts. Scots Law Times (News) 1998; 1, at 5.

73. Zimmermann, R. Actio Iniuriarum. In: The Law of Obligations: Roman Foundations of the Civilian Tradition. Oxford: Clarendon Press; 1996, at 1092.

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