Our heritage

The world's first medical defence organisation

The MDU, the world's first medical defence organisation, was established in 1885 following the outrage in the medical community over the case of Dr David Bradley who was wrongly convicted of assaulting a woman in his surgery. Although the doctor later received a full pardon, he spent eight months in prison.

The MDU was, and still is, a mutual organisation owned by our members. Few organisations that were around in 1885 still exist under the same ownership today. The MDU does - and we're proud of our rich history of guiding, supporting and defending our members.

A rich history of supporting doctors


Medical Defence Union established as the world's first organisation to defend the reputations of doctors.


The MDU takes on its first female member, Dr Elizabeth Ramsey. Dr Ramsey remains a member until her death in 1957.


Annual subscription raised to £1.


The MDU pays out record damages of £25,000 in the Harnett v Bond & Adams case.


Doctors working elsewhere in the British Empire are allowed to join for the first time.


The NHS is introduced. The MDU opens membership to dentists.


The total amount paid out to patients since 1885 reaches £1 million.


Number of MDU members passes 100,000.


The MDU becomes the first defence organisation to introduce a 24-hour medico-legal helpline.


The MDU pays out its first claim of over £1 million.


The Government introduces NHS Indemnity for doctors employed by Health Authorities or Trusts - the MDU continues to provide these members with advice and assistance on a wide range of medico-legal matters including disciplinary charges and complaints.


The MDU becomes the first defence organisation to establish an in-house legal team and a dedicated press office.


The Dental Defence Union is established to provide more specialist support for dentists.


The MDU becomes the first defence organisation to introduce worldwide Good Samaritan cover.


The MDU pays out its largest claim to date - more than £6 million.


Number of MDU members passes 200,000.


The MDU celebrates turning 125 years old.


The MDU goes social with the launch of our Facebook and Twitter pages.


The MDU moves to its new offices in One Canada Square, Canary Wharf.

Always the leader

We have always been the leading defence organisation in the UK. Not only do we have the most UK members, but we continue to  introduce new innovative services. 

  • 1st medical defence organisation in the world
  • 1st to introduce a 24-hour advisory helpline
  • 1st to have a specialist in-house press-office for members
  • 1st to have an in-house legal team
  • 1st to introduce assistance with Good Samaritan Acts worldwide
  • 1st to have a department dedicated to supporting members' interests with government and industry bodies
  • 1st to provide dedicated liaison managers to deliver medico-legal training in practices across the country 

We are as committed to improving our services today as we have ever been. We also value your opinion. If you have ideas for improvement, please get in touch.