Miss Clara McNeill
Clara graduated from Durham University with an Upper Second-Class degree in Law (LLB) in 2020, finishing first in the year in the Law and Economics module; and is now studying towards a Master of Jurisprudence (MJur) at Durham Law School.
She was initially interested in pursuing a career in medicine, however, queasy first-hand medical experience watching her brother having his head stitched up after a rugby match on the kitchen table made it clear that she was far better in front of books than bodies. Her success as a national finalist in the UK Bar Mock Trial and interest in policy and politics encouraged her to study law at university. Throughout her undergraduate degree Clara has maintained a keen interest in medical law and ethics; her undergraduate dissertation examined issues relating to a young person’s refusal of life-saving medical treatment and the Gillick principle.
Moreover, Clara has been actively involved in collegiate and academic life at Durham and has attended many guest lectures within the Law School and conversational suppers with the Durham Institute of Advanced Studies. These, in combination with work placements in Northern Irish medical litigation firms have encouraged her to complete further research into medical law and ethics at Postgraduate level.
Clara’s research focuses on issues of compulsion within medical law and ethics.
Her current thesis considers whether the law can justifiably enforce or compel healthcare workers to undergo immunisation in response to outbreaks of serious vaccine-preventable diseases. This thesis acknowledges the significant ethical concerns associated with mandatory vaccination, most notably the issue of consent. However, it proposes that as a consequence of healthcare workers’ professional obligations to promote patient wellbeing there is a valid case for compulsory immunisation and shall defend this restriction on liberty as proportionate to the (anticipated) benefits of the vaccine.
The thesis will also examine what degree of compulsion would be appropriate, and whether it would be beneficial to incentivise vaccination with economic rewards. With the inevitability of future pandemics, the thesis hopes to provide a well-reasoned ethical framework which endorses public health goals whilst protecting healthcare workers’ human rights and civil liberties.
Clara is very grateful to be supervised by Professor Emma Cave (primary) and Dr Sam Halliday (secondary) and is a member of the Durham Centre for Ethics in Law and Life Sciences (CELLS).