“If you do not accept my word that is your problem, not mine,” says former Lord Chief Justice

The former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, has said he is “not prepared to be cross-examined” over statements he has previously made in support of the divisive Medical Innovation Bill.

Speaking during the House of Lords report stage of the Saatchi Bill in December 2014, Lord Woolf said: “The progress of the Bill has been a remarkable example of this House at its very best. The Bill has been very carefully scrutinised by people who have immense knowledge of the areas covered in the Bill.”

The former Master of the Rolls went on to say: “Those who have asked me to identify cases by name and reference so that they can analyse the cases and show how they do not help any particular argument might be relieved to hear me say that if they want to know where I come from, I wrote a little book called The Pursuit of Justice.”

Solicitor and medical practitioner, Dr Anthony Barton, who had previously written to Lord Woolf requesting the case authorities relied upon by the peer following an article in The Telegraph from April 2014, has once again questioned the peer’s support for the controversial Bill.

In a letter seen by SJ, Barton writes: “I have read your book and am unable to find the ‘cases where doctors are sued for negligence because they have innovated’. Please advise where can I find the cases in your book? At page 332 you state: ‘…unsubstantiated opinions’ which I agree would be a ‘recipe for getting things radically wrong’…”

Barton continued: “Accordingly, please substantiate your opinion by identifying ‘the cases where doctors are sued for negligence because they have innovated’. If you cannot identify such cases then please clarify your position.”

In a combative email, also seen by SJ, Lord Woolf responded: “I am not prepared to be cross-examined further, I can only say that I am disappointed that your interest in forensic matters does not make you willing to accept that having been appointed a judge in 1979, and having tried many cases depending on medical evidence that I doubt were ever reported, it is now impossible for me to give you the information you seek and so if you do not accept my word that is your problem, not mine.”

In a joint statement with Dr Michael J Powers QC, co-editor of the fifth edition of the legal textbook on clinical negligence, Barton continued to voice concerns about the proposed Medical Innovation Bill.

“The Bill’s supporters have not provided any evidence that doctors are deterred from innovation by the threat of litigation,” the pair state. “Parliamentary scrutiny requires solid evidence.”

This article was first published in the Solicitors Journal on 5 January 2015 and is reproduced with kind permission.

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