IVF Undercover: BBC faces £1m-plus libel bill

The BBC is facing a legal bill of well over £1million after settling its libel battle with top IVF doctor Mohamed Taranissi.

It has not been disclosed whether the BBC has paid damages.

The high legal costs are partly a consequence of the fact that the case has dragged on for so long.

The Panorama programme featuring him, IVF Undercover, was first broadcast in January 2007.

It is also another example of the huge cost to publishers of defending legal actions in the UK. The government is currently reviewing the libel fees regime – particularly the high costs associated with no win, no fee libel actions.

According to sources close to the case Taranissi's costs alone are likely to be £900,000.

Taranissi has been described as Britain's richest doctor and signalled his intention to sue the BBC using solicitors Carter Ruck in May 2007.

The BBC used undercover techniques to make allegations about the running of Taranissi's central London clinics.

 

Last October the corporation was ordered to pay an estimated £500,000 in costs to Taranissi Mr Justice Eady at the High Court threw out the BBC's Reynolds defence – that the story was responsible journalism on a matter of public interest – and awarded Taranissi legal costs related to that part of the case.

The BBC indicated then that it intended to proceed to trial and plead justification – that the defamatory material was true.

In October 2008 Taranissi was cleared by General Medical Council Fitness to Practise panel

The medical panel was investigating allegations that Taranissi failed to keep proper medical records, applied inappropriate pressure on one patient and was insensitive with another.

But the panel found there was insufficient evidence to show Taranissi's behaviour amounted to "inappropriate pressure".

It also found there was not enough evidence to suggest one patient was not properly informed about treatment for infertility with an unlicensed drug.

A second patient alleged Taranissi did not investigate her vomiting and swollen wrists when she was at his clinic for fertility treatment.

Shortly after leaving the clinic in August 2004 she suffered two seizures and was admitted to intensive care.

But the panel found Taranissi could not have been expected to diagnose the rare condition.

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