Intended for healthcare professionals
Monk's Moments

The snail in the ginger beer bottle

As a dermatologist, I hardly ever give snails a moment’s thought; we don’t get much schistosomiasis in Bedfordshire. But a snail played a crucial part in a legal case some ninety years ago, which transformed the way in which the courts deal with the subject of negligence and, in turn, created the whole claim and compensation industry, including the type of medical negligence claims which cast such a cloud over how doctors now work.

The facts of the case are as follows: on a Sunday afternoon in August 1928, May Donoghue and her friend travelled by train from Glasgow to Paisley, and went to the Wellmeadow café. May’s friend purchased an ice-cream for herself and a confection called a ‘Scotsman float’ for May, a bowl of ice-cream on which ginger beer is poured. May ate some of her treat, and then poured on the remains of the Stevenson’s ginger beer from the bottle. To her horror, out floated a dead snail. May became hysterical and collapsed, later being admitted to hospital for two weeks.

Dermatology in practice 2020; 26(1): 27–27
To continue reading this article, please sign in or register.