By Ian Freckelton*
Huntington’s disease (HD) is a relentlessly progressive and fatal neurological condition that is inherited. It has serious and disabling physical and mental components. As such, it impacts upon those who have HD, those with the potential to inherit it, and those who care for those with HD in a wide variety of ways. These can have many legal ramifications including in relation to evolving impairments of capacity which can have an outcome in terms of involuntary status as mental health patients, testamentary capacity and the need for guardianship and administration. It can have effects upon fitness for parenting, obligations for spousal maintenance, and the quantum of compensation from a tortious incident to which a person is entitled. It has repercussions for criminal liability and culpability. This article reviews case law from a number of countries in relation to such matters, noting the broader radiation to others of the effects of HD, and reflecting on the need for legal and medical professionals to be aware of the legal consequences of HD for them to be able to discharge their responsibilities holistically, sensitively and informedly.
The full article can be accessed here: “Huntington’s disease and the law” (2010) 18 JLM 7.
* Barrister; Crockett Chambers, Melbourne, Australia; Professor, Law Faculty, Department of Psychology, Psychiatry and Psychological Medicine, Department of Forensic Medicine, Monash University.