This followed the emergence of similar subscription-based organisations in England in previous years, established in response to a number of high-profile cases in which doctors faced crippling legal defence costs and damages.
The Union was incorporated in May 1902 as a mutual membership organisation and the first meeting was held in Glasgow, attended by nine doctors and one dentist. The subscription was set at 10/- and membership stood at 26. A simple truth lay behind the establishment of the Union – that "good" doctors can still find themselves involved in extremely expensive claims, or as the first convener of the MDDUS Council, Dr Robert W Forest, said:
"No member of the profession, however long he may have enjoyed immunity from attack and however confident he may be of the care with which he discharges his duties, can claim to be free from charges and claims against him. Such claims are made when they are least expected and deserved."
By the time of the first Annual General Meeting held in December 1903 membership had grown to 539 and the revenue account showed an income of £231 18s 3d. The first annual report provides details of 21 cases, of which most required only advice.
MDDUS Membership was initially restricted to Scottish doctors and dentists but in 1919 the Union agreed that Scottish members moving to England should be allowed to remain in the Union. It was also agreed that applicants from England could also be accepted as members.
By the year 1935 membership had grown to 2,918 and four years later, when war broke out, MDDUS was the only one of the three medical defence unions to suspend subscriptions for members of the armed forces.
Day-to-day administration of the Union in the early years was carried out in a chartered accountant’s office, with regular council meetings to discuss cases and financial matters. In 1967, with membership exceeding 9,500, it was decided to open a separate MDDUS office with a small administrative staff of six headed up by Medical Secretary Dr James Patterson.
Today our active membership stands at over 50,000. We operate from offices in Glasgow and London with a staff of over 150 professionals, including medical and dental advisers, solicitors and paralegals, a dedicated membership team, and marketing and support staff. In 2018, our Group assets exceeded £554m and our annual income exceeded £133m – a far cry from the £231 of 1903.
MDDUS remains a mutual organisation, confident in the belief that this best serves the interests of our members in these increasingly litigious and financially challenging times.