Dr Chris Danbury is one of only a small number of qualified civil mediators in the UK with a medical background. A Consultant Intensive Care Physician, Author, Lecturer, Medical Expert and Mediator, he has a rare and extraordinary combination of expertise and personal qualities that makes him the perfect choice of mediator in case involving complex medical issues.
Dr Chris Danbury qualified as a doctor in 1990, and in the early part of his career specialised in General Internal Medicine, anaesthetics and then intensive care. It wasn’t until 1999 when Intensive Care Medicine was recognised by the GMC as a specialty and a further 10 years until the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine was established, with Chris becoming a Founding Fellow in the Facaulty.
“My father was a barrister and Recorder, and my brother followed in his footsteps for a while before becoming a journalist and academic” explains Chris. “I’ve therefore always been surrounded by the practice and principles of ‘The Law’, so I suppose you could say it was inevitable that I would find a way of combining the two. I completed a Masters in Philosophy in Medical Law in 2005, at a time when two of my three daughters were under the age of 5. My fascination with the interface between law and medicine underpins much of my professional career.”
The UK’s only accredited mediator with a licence to practice medicine who is accredited both by the CMC and approved by NHS Resolution
Chris qualified as a mediator in 2016 following an experience he had whilst instructed as a medical expert in Court of Protection case which went to court. “At the start of the hearing the Judge asked the parties if the matter could be resolved without it being heard by him. Although I was the expert in the case, I naturally (and unconsciously) took up the role of mediator, the upshot being that I managed to facilitate a settlement. The Judge commented on the role I had played, which triggered the idea of me formally qualifying as a mediator.”
He is now the only Doctor with a licence to practice medicine who is accredited by both the CMC and NHS Resolution.
“Good mediators understand the human psyche of conflict.”
The ability to properly listen and reframe issues in a case to assist with communication during a mediation, are invariably the most cited qualities of a mediator. As an experienced Consultant, Chris believes that understanding how people approach conflict differently, is another important quality.
“When faced with two opposing positions, having the ability to analyse the conflict from a psychological perspective can hugely inform the practical approach taken to open up communication between the parties. As a mediator, I regard myself as the ghost in the room; my opinion is irrelevant and my role is to purely facilitate a conversation between the parties in the hope that it will lead to a resolution of the claim.”
“The more medically complicated the case, the more interested I am.”
In 2013 the case of Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust v James EWCA Civ 65 became the first Court of Protection case to be heard by the Supreme Court. It was concerned with how doctors and courts should decide when it is in the best interests of a patient, who lacks the capacity to decide for himself, for him to be given, or not to be given, treatments necessary to sustain life. Dr Chris Danbury was the medical expert on the case.
“Rather than shy away from the difficult cases, it’s actually these that I prefer to be involved in” admits Chris. “When it comes to mediations, my appointment on cases that involve complex medical issues can be hugely beneficial to the parties reaching a resolution. Over my many years practising medicine, I’ve been able to hone my skills in explaining complex problems in language that is understandable to non-medics. This is an extremely useful attribute for a mediator to have when involved in evidentially difficult cases.”
Chris’ expertise and experience enables him to address the medical issues in the case in a different way to how legally-qualified mediators might. “In some instances, it’s been possible for me to identify strengths and weaknesses that hadn’t been identified and constructively facilitate discussions between the parties.
Top Tips for Lawyers going to mediation
- Talk to the mediator ahead of the mediation – the more information you provide, the easier it is to the bring the parties together.
- Be honest – mediators will not break your confidence.
- Talk to your client about what to expect – explaining that mediators are not judges can often help claimants feel at ease.