For All (Hu)mankind? The intersection of Mental Capacity Law, Informed Consent and Contract Law with U.K. Space Law

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Abstract

The UK Space Industry Act 2018 has now been supplemented with the new Space Industry Regulations. While examples of Space Tourism grace our screens and newsfeeds on an increasingly regular basis such as William Shatner’s recent voyage (Luscombe, 2021) the UK Regulations also pave the way for ‘human occupants’ (UK Space Industry Regulations, Regulation 2) to experience such a flight (UK Space Agency, 2020). A key part of the regulations pertaining to human occupants is that they must provide ‘informed consent’ before embarking on such a flight. If, as is likely to be the case, future courts are to draw analogies with the current state of medical law in this area, spaceflight operators will have to tread carefully if they are to avoid vitiating any informed consent by ‘bombarding’ any willing human occupant with technical detail prior to their flight (Simmonds, 2020). Whilst this could prove legally problematic for ‘capacitous’ individuals within the meaning of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, it is likely to be even more so for those who could be deemed, in some aspects of their cognitive ability, to lack capacity. UK Space Legislation as it presently stands faces three problems: 1) There is presently no legal mechanism under UK Space Law to determine capacity. 2) As examples from the Court of Protection indicate, ‘capacity’ is a very nuanced legal concept and individuals who, on the fact of things, may appear to lack capacity as regards potentially risky activities, have been regarded by the Courts as, at least, partially capacitous in respect of certain decisions. Operators may find themselves having to tread a fine line to avoid claims of discrimination. 3) because of point 1) and the state of the Law of Contract as regards contractual relationships entered into by potentially incapacitous individuals, further significant legal problems may present themselves. This paper will focus primarily on the Law in England and Wales but some of the overarching conclusions will be of relevance to all UK jurisdictions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-264
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Discrimination and the Law
Volume23
Issue number3
Early online date15 May 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Keywords

  • Space
  • Space Law
  • Contract Law
  • Mental Capacity
  • Informed Consent
  • Space Industry
  • Disability

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