Criminal Law 01: Actus Reus
The defendant inflicted serious stab wounds on the deceased who, knowing she would be likely to die as a result, refused a blood transfusion because she was a Jehovah's Witness and accepting another's blood was against her religion. The defendant claimed that her refusal to accept the blood transfusion broke the chain of causation between his conduct and her death.
There have been two cases in recent years which have some bearing on this topic: R v Jordan and R v Smith. In R v Jordan the Court of Criminal Appeal, after conviction, admitted some medical evidence which went to prove that the cause of death was not the blow relied on by the prosecution but abnormal medical treatment after admission to hospital. This case has been criticised but it was probably rightly decided on its facts. Before the abnormal treatment started the injury had almost healed. We share Lord Parker CJ's opinion ( 2 All ER at 198,  2 QB at 43) that R v Jordan should be regarded as a case decided on its own special facts and not as an authority relaxing the common law approach to causation. In R v Smith the man who had been stabbed would probably not have died but for a series of mishaps. These mishaps were said to have broken the chain of causation. Lord Parker CJ, in the course of his judgment, commented as follows ( 2 All ER at 198,  2 QB at 42, 43):
'...if at the time of death the original wound is still an operating cause and a substantial cause, then the death can properly be said to be the result of the wound, albeit that some other cause of death is also operating. Only if it can be said that the original wounding is merely the setting in which another cause operates can it be said that the death does not result from the wound. Putting it in another way, only if the second cause is so overwhelming as to make the original wound merely part of the...