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R v Malcherek and Steel [1981] 2 ALL ER

Two separate appeals were heard together. In Malcherek the defendant had stabbed his wife. In Steel the defendant was accused of sexually assaulting and beating a woman over the head with a stone. In both cases the victims had been taken to hospital and placed on life support machines. The doctors in the respective cases later switched off the life support machines as both victims were not showing any activity in their brain stem. The defendants sought to argue that the doctors' actions constituted a novus actus interveniens which broke the chain of causation.


Convictions upheld

The test of death is where the brain stem has died. Thus at the time of switching off the machine, the victims were already dead. The doctors could not therefore be the cause of death.
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