Medical negligence cases may cost State millions
The State is facing having to pay out potentially tens of millions of euro in the years ahead to deal with medical negligence cases against members and former members of the UK-based indemnity body the Medical Defence Union (MDU) despite a €45 million settlement with the organisation announced last month.
In December the Department of Health said it had received €45 million from the MDU in settlement of a long-standing dispute over who paid for the cost of historic liabilities in relation to claims made against members and former members of the organisation.
Since 2004 the MDU has refused to provide indemnity to a large number of members and former members in Ireland following a dispute with the Government.
Since then the Government has been making ex-gratia payments, on a case-by-case basis, in relation to claims for medical negligence against doctors who were or had been members of the MDU.
New figures obtained by The Irish Times show that the amount paid out by the State in compensation and legal costs as part of this arrangement exceeds the €45 million which the Government received in the settlement from the MDU.
There are also about 120 further cases in which payments have not yet been made by the State in relation to negligence claims made against members or former members of the MDU.
The Department of Health said that since the arrangement for ex-gratia payments was put in place in 2004, a total of 145 such payments had been made.
“The total value of payments made to date is €47 million, including legal costs.
“This comprises €26.8 million in compensation paid and €11 million in plaintiffs’ costs and €9.2 million in defendants’ costs.”
The Department of Health said it was “aware of 120 cases approximately in which payments have not yet been made”.
In February 2005 the then minister for health Mary Harney said the State believed the value of historic and known cases against members and former members of the MDU to be around €400 million.
She said the MDU estimated the figure at €160 million.
Some senior health service sources said there was a view that there was no guarantee that legal action against the MDU would be successful and that given the issue had been going on for so long, it was prudent to reach an agreement.