David Lawson

Call 2000


David regularly appears in the Court of Protection. He has particular experience on questions of sexual relations and marriage. His medical treatment work includes covert treatment, birth and end of life issues, the borderline for diagnosing a minimally conscious state, blood transfusions and anaesthetics.

David was a contributor to the 3rd and 4th editions of Medical Treatment: Decisions and the Law.

He is the author of the Court of Protection Guide, a 200 page guide to the Mental Capacity Act and Court of Protection, available here.

Experience and Expertise

David has extensive experience in health and welfare matters in the Court of Protection, including at both Court of Appeal and European Court of Human Rights level.  His work includes serious medical treatment cases, welfare work involving urgent safeguarding applications, and matters at the borderline of the Mental Health Act and Mental Capacity Act.  He has been involved in a number of cases with public law elements, including access to treatment.

Issues covered in his cases include assisted suicide, covert treatment, sexual relations, gaining access to property, non-recognition of marriage, forced marriage and a wide range of medical conditions (along, of course, with issues which regularly occur such as residence, care, capacity etc).

Cases & work of note

  • North Bristol Trust v. R [2023] EWCOP 5: a child birth application where P’s complex presentation meant her diagnosis was not clear.  The Court explored the relationship between the diagnostic and functional criteria.
  • A (A Child) (Withdrawal of Treatment) [2022] EWCA Civ 1221: application concerning a baby who had suffered a profound brain injury and was in intensive care. The appeal centred around procedural rights, under article 6 and domestic law.  The case involved two pre-trial hearings, a trial, two Court of Appeal hearings, a further pre-trial hearing, and another trial, all within two months.
  • Imperial College Healthcare v. C [2022] EWCOP 28: a concerning end of life and respiration.
  • Re: EM [2022] 4 WLR 101: instructed to safeguard EM, who was in his home and considered to be at serious and immediate risk. Judgment explored how and to what extent people should be involved in proceedings in that situation, i.e. where it is urgent but they are unavailable or not cooperating.
  • Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust v A [2022] EWHC 1873: the first case in which a patient was found to be brain dead following standard assessments and restarted breathing independently. The case led to changes to international guidance.
  • S v Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Trust [2022] EWCOP 10: represented both hospitals in case involving termination of pregnancy for someone at the limit for a lawful termination, where capacity was in dispute. The Court held that S had capacity to consent to a termination.
  • R (Conway) v. Secretary of State for Justice [2020]:  David appeared for an intervener  QB 1, which determines the legality of the prohibition on assisted suicide in the context of terminally ill patients.
  • M v. S Local Authority [2019]: capacity to consent to marriage and non-recognition
  • A local authority v. P [2018] EWCOP 10: the first case at High Court level on covert treatment, in particular covert contraception.  The case involved someone with capacity in relation to sexual relations but not contact and the need to balance their care plan and their health care.
  • Re: Y [2016] 151 BMLR 232: represented the health board in a case involving a premature baby (Y) with a number of serious health issues. The health board sought a declaration in relation to its proposed treatment plan for Y.
  • Re: GW [2014] EWCOP 20: represented the local authority where a person with Huntington’s Disease appealed against a decision of the Court of Protection that they lacked capacity to leave their specialist residential home unescorted. The Court upheld the Judge’s decision.


“David is very knowledgeable and approachable. He is a great asset to have instructed on a case.”
Chamber and Partners

“David has an excellent eye for detail.
Chambers and Partners

“David is an incredibly dedicated barrister. He always looks at the issues from every possible angle, finding innovative ways to resolve what can appear to be intractable disputes. He is calm and thorough, inspiring confidence in instructing solicitors and clients.”
The Legal 500

“He really gives his time and empathy to clients in significant distress.”
Chambers and Partners

“He is absolutely fantastic – he goes above and beyond. His cross-examination skills are beyond compare. He is so effective.”
Chambers and Partners

‘Clearly a silk in the making and is head and shoulders above the rest.’
The Legal 500