The BBC will be paying a steep legal bill, estimated between one and six million pounds, after settling a libel case with Dr Mohamed Taranissi, who is considered to be one of Britain's most successful fertility specialists.
A BBC spokesman announced last week that the parties had agreed to settle and 'consider the matter closed'.
Taranissi claimed that the BBC's Panorama programme - broadcast in January 2007 - entitled 'IVF Uncovered' damaged his reputation when it alleged that his London clinic, the 'Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre', offered 'unnecessary and unproven treatment' to an undercover reporter posed as a 26-year-old patient who, like her partner, had not experienced a history of infertility. Taranissi claimed he was the victim of a 'witch hunt' and his libel solicitors declared the BBC allegations 'biased and irresponsible'.
The agreed settlement was for the BBC to pay both parties' legal costs but the amounts, and the question whether the BBC is paying Taranissi any damages in addition to legal costs, are not confirmed. Reports cited a source close to the case as estimating Taranissi's legal costs to be around £900,000 and did not believe the BBC to be paying damages. The BBC is equally expected to have high six-figure legal costs of its own.
In October, the High Court already had ordered the BBC to pay £500,000 of Taranissi's legal costs. The BBC had engaged in a bitter legal battle but roughly 14 months later it withdrew part of its defence of qualified privilege for responsible journalism, leaving them with a bill of hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees.Mr Taranissi is estimated to have assisted the successful birth of 2,300 babies within seven years, holding the highest IVF clinic success birth rates in London. At his clinics, 60 per cent of women under 35 successfully give birth to live babies. Taranissi was ready to defend against the show's allegations including that a blood transfusion offered might be harmful to an unborn child and the claim he had a second unlicensed clinic, the Reproductive Genetics Institute, where he allegedly sent his older and harder-to-treat patients in order to maintain higher success rates at his other clinic. He claimed that Panorama producers had information that showed 'a different side and a different argument', but that they chose not to use it, including at least two other undercover reporters being given legitimate advice.