'We are made scapegoats' say Irish solicitors over ads furore

The Law Society of Ireland has angrily rejected claims that irresponsible advertising by solicitors has lead to rocketing insurance cover for hospital consultants.

The Irish Hospital Consultants' Association blames “ambulance-chasing solicitors” for the average cost of cover jumping from £800 to £30,000 per annum over the past 10 years.

“Ambulance-chasing solicitors, using billboard publicity campaigns, full-page advertising and self-promotion as 'experts' in medical litigation, have enticed the public to enter medical malpractice claims regardless of their merit,” the association said in a statement.

The association said consultants in Irish hospitals were four times more likely to be sued than their UK counterparts and Irish taxpayers were paying £20 million a year to meet insurance cover for medical staff in public hospitals.

Finbarr Fitzpatrick, association secretary, said he objected to the “have a go” mentality of solicitors which encouraged action whether the claim was genuine or not.

“The whole advertising issue has got out of hand, with solicitors spending a total of up to £750,000 a year touting for personal injury claims,” he said.

But Irish Law Society director general Ken Murphy reacted angrily to the claims in an interview with the RTE Radio 1 programme Morning Ireland.

“Frankly, solicitors are sick and tired of being made scapegoats by doctors for the problems of medical negligence,” he said. “If there's a high level of medical negligence claims it is because there's a high level of injuries caused by negligent medical practitioners.”

He said less than 1 per cent of firms in the Dublin area advertised on a large scale in the Yellow Pages.

“How that can be said to have any substantial effect on the number of medical negligence claims I cannot understand,” Murphy said.

Murphy said the society was considering new guidelines on advertising, unlikely to be finalised until September, but he saw no need for action following the association's claims.