Merry is a partner in the human rights department, and specialises in the protection of the rights of children, vulnerable adults and patients. She has expertise in actions under the Human Rights Act 1988 and in judicial review, and her team is instructed in both claims for compensation and challenging decisions of public authorities. Merry also regularly represents victims’ families in inquests.
Merry qualified in 2004, having trained at Linklaters, who seconded her to both Mary Ward Legal Centre and Liberty's Human Rights Litigation Unit. Having qualified, Merry spent several years working at Liberty, the human rights organisation, and as a social welfare solicitor focusing on homelessness and access to healthcare.
Merry joined Leigh Day as a solicitor in 2007, originally working with Frances Swaine. Merry is now assisted by a solicitor, Charlotte Skouby and paralegal Daniel Duff.
Merry works with both individuals, on legal aid, no-win no fee and a private basis, and with charities and NGOs. The majority of her work raises issues of wider public interest and concerns challenges to policies of public authorities. She is recognised as a leader in her field in the legal directories.
Merry has acted for patients and their families in a wide range of cases involving access to NHS treatment and poor care in hospitals and in the community. She has also brought challenges to NHS policies and acted in disputes over medical treatment decisions. She has a particular interest in cases concerning equality and discrimination, and in fertility treatment.
Merry is currently working on cases involving access to treatment at the end of life including Do Not Resuscitate orders, as well as cases and Inquests alleging discrimination in healthcare services and inadequate mental health care.
Merry’s recent successes in this area include:
- R (Tracey) v CUHNFT & another – Merry was instructed by David Tracey, husband of the late Janet Tracey who had a Do Not Resuscitate order placed on her medical file by doctors, who neither told her what they had done nor consulted with her before doing so. The Court of Appeal held Janet’s human rights had been violated and sent a clear message to health professionals that clear information and consultation is legally required.
- R (Rose) v Thanet CCG – Merry acted for Lizzy Rose, who was about to undergo chemotherapy likely to render her infertile, in her successful challenge against her CCG policy denying NHS funding for fertility preservation treatment before chemotherapy.
- Merry acted for Dawn and Genna, who were refused NHS funded fertility treatment because they were in a same sex relationship, despite meeting the medical criteria. Merry secured her clients both NHS funded treatment and compensation.
- A successful challenge to a refusal by an NHS hospital to carry out life sustaining treatment on a cancer sufferer with insecure immigration status, without payment up front.
- Merry was instructed by MedConfidential to challenge the care.data proposals concerning the sharing of patients’ GP records.
Rights of vulnerable adults
Merry regularly acts in disputes arising over the provision of community care to vulnerable adults and claims arising out of substandard care, neglect and abuse. Merry has successfully challenged reductions in individual care packages as well as brought successful litigation to prevent the closure of a respite home for vulnerable adults.
Merry also advises on Court of Protection and Best Interests matters, including applications for Deputyships to cover health care and personal welfare decisions and claims concerning Deprivation of Liberty.
Merry currently acts for clients, both with and without capacity, in challenges to the suitability of their placements and content of their care package, as well as in claims for compensation arising out of neglect and abuse in care homes or by carers at home.
Merry also regularly acts in claims for discrimination and recently settled a number of cases for a blind client who was repeatedly discriminated by his bank and housing provider. Merry has also secured compensation for disabled holiday makers and their families whose holidays are ruined by failures to make reasonable adjustments to the services provided.
Merry is currently developing this area of her practice, supplemented by Charlotte Skouby’s experience in education law.
To date, Merry has been instructed in numerous challenges to the amount of care provided to disabled children, and has more recently expanded her practice to include cases involving the care given to looked after children and children leaving care.
Merry also has expertise in claims for compensation for children unlawfully restrained and detained while at school, and is currently instructed in a number of claims arising out of the use of a so called ‘calm room’ at a school in Stoke.
Merry has a particular interest in the rights of children born via surrogacy and donor conception.
Merry’s recent successes in this area include:
- Acting for a group of disabled teenagers who were told their further education course would be cut from full time to part time without consultation. Merry and her team successfully challenged the decision and ultimately Suffolk One reinstated full time provision to her clients’ and their families delight.
- RKA v Secretary of State for Work & Pensions – successfully achieved compensation for a mother of a child born through surrogacy who did not receive any paid leave or protection from redundancy while caring for her newborn child.
- Merry successfully acted for a disabled 7 year old girl in challenging cuts to her care package despite no change in her needs.
In the news
Merry has regularly appeared in the media to support her clients and to give expert opinions on healthcare issues, including on File on Four. Merry has also had articles published in various publications, including BioNews, Infertility Network magazine, and Viewpoint (Mencap publication) and is a regular contributor to the Leigh Day blog.
CPR and Article 8 LexisNexis June 2016
A dignified departure: rights and options for end of life care Brain Injury News Autumn 2015
Surrogacy: The difference a due date makes Bionews 26.1.15
Foetal alcohol syndrome and the right to compensation Lexis PSL 9.12.14
Autistic boys ‘shut in tiny room’ at Stoke-on-Trent school
Clinical Commissioning Groups & Fertility Treatment - R (Elizabeth Rose) v Thanet CCG  podcast
by Merry Varney June 2014
Briton claims German police investigation into son’s death ‘as bad as Lawrence case’
Family goes to appeal court in fight over patient resuscitation decisions Guardian 5.5.14
Crohn's patient Lizzy Rose accepts clinic's egg-freezing offer BBC News 17.4.14
Listen to Merry's interview on BBC Radio 4's File on 4, Second-class patients?
What clients say about Merry
"I have to say, stress aside, it was a real privilege to witness such sharp minds at work, alongside the fact that you balanced this with a genuine compassion and humanness, which meant a lot (and is not always easy to find!)."
Merry Varney "is absolutely brilliant. She is extremely efficient, she has a tactical mind and she is a very kind woman.
"Thank you so much to you and your team for all the help , support and kind words . Mum would have not won this battle without your assistance."
“Just when we thought there was no hope we found Merry, She was the light at the end of our tunnel.
After all the heartache she helped us achieve the best gift we could ever have wished for, our beautiful boy”.
"The amount of work and time that you have given to our case has been immense. This letter can never express my gratitude to you for all you have done."
DNR order challenges Lexis PSL 25.5.16
Fertility and surrogacy brochure