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What does discretionary indemnity mean for you?

18 July 2023

Dr Rob Hendry, Medical Director at Medical Protection, discuss the benefits of discretionary indemnity.

It is undeniable that the healthcare industry in Ireland is going through a tumultuous period and its medical professionals are experiencing unprecedented levels of uncertainty.

In recent years, for example, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted clinical practice and seen the growth of waiting lists. The Medical Workforce Intelligence Report (MWIR) from the Irish Medical Council provides stark evidence of the risks to health and safety for both patients and doctors arising from the ongoing recruitment and retention crisis in the Irish health services.* All of this and more highlights the need for an adaptable and experienced indemnity provider for medical professionals across Ireland, and when it comes to experience and expertise, sometimes you get what you pay for.

The indemnity we offer to individual doctors is based on the principle of discretion. This means that we have the flexibility to provide assistance to the everchanging challenges facing clinicians. With experienced medicolegal consultants and specialist solicitors at the core of our team, we can use our judgement and insight to help members. 

With more choice in professional protection than ever before, you need an organisation that goes further than anyone else to protect you and your interests, and we understand that you might have questions about your indemnity. Here, we answer some of the most common queries on what discretion means in practice. 


Why is the flexibility of discretionary indemnity so important? 

Defending doctors accused of medical malpractice is a specialist area and the expertise required is very different to areas covered by traditional forms of insurance, such as car or household cover. It can be, and often is, several years between an incident taking place and the resulting claim emerging. 

Medicine, and the environment it is practiced in, is continually changing and is rarely straightforward; new challenges and issues constantly arise, some of which were inconceivable just a few years ago. Discretion means we can offer help in unusual circumstances or where a new problem appears. It's why we use people, not contracts to make these decisions. 

Our claims management team are based in-house, and work for you, which means that you benefit from the expertise and combined wisdom of your peers: doctors and legal experts who know the healthcare system and your specific challenges. 

We are different in that we treat every case on its individual merit, and, because we are a discretionary organisation, our starting point is always 'how can we help?' 


Why should I pay for membership when there's no formal guarantee of assistance? 

 At Medical Protection, we exist to support our members, first and foremost.

We have no shareholder interests we need to prioritise or pay dividends to. All the funds collected in membership fees are used in the interests of members. Therefore, all of our medicolegal consultants and claims experts and handlers are only interested in what’s best for members.

Offering assistance on a discretionary basis means our approach to supporting members starts with ‘How can we help?’

We encourage our members to get in touch when they are concerned they may have a problem and we help thousands of members every year with problems that arise from their professional practice.  They may only need to speak to a fellow professional but where more support is needed, we provide assistance with the vast majority of cases. Only in very exceptional circumstances would we decline - for example, if a member was not in membership when the adverse incident occurred or had deliberately underpaid their subscription.** 

This is no different from an insurance company declining to assist in such circumstances. 

Being discretionary doesn't mean there are no rules. We cannot and would not decline to assist you just because we felt like it - you have the Memorandum and Articles of Association as your agreement with us. 


If I'm sued for a large sum, I've heard Medical Protection could turn their backs on me and refuse to help, as there's no written agreement to do so - is that right? 

No - this is simply not true. We take our responsibilities to members extremely seriously and have never used discretion capriciously. We have never declined to assist a member purely because of cost implications. In fact, there are no caps or limits on the indemnity we provide to Medical Protection members in Ireland. 

*See Medical Workforce Intelligence Report Summary 2021 at

**See Medical Protection website on Understanding you