Professor Sheila McLean to lead group considering changes to medical compensation

Published: 1 June 2009

Professor Sheila McLean, Director of the Institute of Law and Ethics in Medicine, is to chair a group of experts considering the introduction of no-fault compensation in Scotland.

Professor Sheila McLean, International Bar Association Chair of Law and Ethics in Medicine and co-Director of the Centre for Applied Ethics and Legal Philosophy, at the University of Glasgow is to chair a group of experts considering the introduction of no-fault compensation in Scotland.
The group will consider whether Scotland should introduce a system which would mean that some patients injured by medical treatment could receive financial compensation without requiring to go through the legal process.

Currently, compensation for injuries caused as a result of medical treatment provided by the NHS in Scotland is awarded on the basis that patients can prove doctors had legal responsibility and there was clinical negligence.

The no-fault system would require only that patients prove their injuries were caused by treatment but without the need to establish any blame or responsibility.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “The expert group established today will first of all look at if such a scheme should be introduced in Scotland and if so how this would work alongside the existing clinical negligence arrangements for the benefit of patients and NHS staff alike.
“I am delighted to announce that Sheila Maclean has agreed to accept the position as chair and I look forward to the receiving the group’s report and recommendations.”

Prof McLean said: “The review group will evaluate both the principles and the practice underpinning no fault liability, drawing on evidence from existing schemes, and considering their applicability to the Scottish legal situation.  I am delighted to chair this committee which is charged with exploring the feasibility of what would amount to radical law reform for Scots Law.”

For more information contact Stuart Forsyth in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 4831 or email

Notes to Editors

1. Membership of the expert group will be drawn from key stakeholder organisations including the BMA, GMC and RCN. It will also include patient representation.
2. The number of clinical negligence cases in Scotland varies from year to year – in the latest year for which figures are available, 2007-08, there were 182 cases settled and the total sum paid was £14.5 million.
3. A no-fault approach would mean that it was necessary to prove that injuries were caused by medical treatment, but not to establish any blame or responsibility. This would be similar to the approach taken, for example, to compensation for criminal injuries.
4. International evidence suggests that no-fault compensation reduces the administrative and legal costs of handling claims, is less expensive and quicker in resolving cases. In New Zealand straightforward cases can be resolved within weeks, and all cases have to be determined within nine months. 
5. The group’s report should be submitted by October 2010.

First published: 1 June 2009

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