Jason Beer QC acts for University of Manchester in radiation inquests
On 11th January 2013 verdicts of death by natural causes were returned at the inquests into the deaths of Professor Thomas Whiston and Dr Arthur Reader, former academics at the University of Manchester.
Prof Whiston and Dr Reader had occupied, from the 1970s, rooms used that had been between 1907 and 1919 by Lord Ernest Rutherford, the father of modern nuclear physics, to conduct experiments using radionuclides (radioactive forms of elements) from each of the three natural radioactive decay series (uranium-238, uranium-235 and throrium-232), and also substantial quantities of metallic mercury.
Prof Whiston and Dr Reader died from pancreatic cancer. It was alleged that their deaths were caused by ionising radiation and / or mercury deposited in the rooms as a result of the experiments conducted by Lord Rutherford.
HM Coroner ruled that Prof Whiston and Dr Reader each died from natural causes and that their deaths were not connected with their occupancy of offices in the Rutherford Building during their employment at The University of Manchester. Specifically, he found that histological studies showed no evidence of more than background levels of radiation in their bodies, that expert evidence showed that exposure to radiation does not in any event cause pancreatic cancer, and that evidence from an epidemioligist showed that the most likely explanation of two cases of pancreatic cancer occuring in a “cluster” of this kind was chance coincidence.
Jason Beer QC appeared for the University of Manchester, instructed by Ian McAllister, Partner (Insurance and Occupational Health) at DWF LLP, Manchester