Advertising watchdogs have banned a clinical negligence advertisement after complaints that it was distressing and offensive.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered north-west firm Michael W Halsall, trading as, to take down the TV advertisement and ensure future advertisements are not likely to cause offence. The firm said it had voluntarily took the advertisement off air after it had been informed of complaints. 

The ad featured a diagram of a pregnant woman surrounded by the labels ‘birthing injury’, ‘cerebral palsy’ and ‘forceps injury’. A drawing of a doctor inside an orange warning triangle was then shown on-screen. 

A voiceover, accompanied by dramatic music, then said: ’During your pregnancy you thought your doctor was doing everything they could for you and your baby… But your doctor didn’t see the danger signs, and now you’re left picking up the pieces.’ The music then became more upbeat as the claims service was described.

A total of 15 complaints were received, including from expectant mothers who said the ad was likely to cause undue fear or distress to pregnant women. Other complainants said people who had suffered problems during pregnancy may be offended, as would medical professionals.

Media Agency Group, responding on behalf of the firm, said medical negligence claims could have life-changing consequences and, while accepting the message was emotive, said the responses to the ad were equally so.

The company said the ad was designed to promote a specialist service to victims and it believed the ‘tone and execution’ were suitable for the nature of the claim type.

But the ASA ruled the ad had breached two advertising standards rules, causing both harm and offence. 

‘The overall tone and presentation of this information implied that medical negligence resulting in the named complications was a considerably more common occurrence than we understood was the case and, as such, was likely to cause undue distress to pregnant viewers,’ said the ruling. 

‘The inference of widespread medical negligence in childbirth procedures was likely to cause serious offence to medical professionals.’

The ruling added that by including cerebral palsy in the list of complication for which parents were left ‘picking up the pieces’, the ad framed the condition as a ‘burdensome affliction’ and it was likely to cause ‘serious offence’.

Michael W Halsall Solicitors Ltd said in a statement: ‘The firm engaged the Media Agency Group (MAG) approximately 10 months ago to design and deliver a media campaign to promote the brand, specifically in relation to clinical negligence claims.

‘Once the campaign had been designed all the adverts were then ratified by Clearcast who approved both the scripts and also the final commercials prior to them being broadcast. Clearcast were satisfied that the commercials complied with the BCAP code (rules) that applies to television advertising, such as good taste and decency criteria.'

The advertisements ran for some six months and reached millions of viewers during that time, the firm stated. ‘On the 21 August the ASA contacted our office to make us aware of the 14 complaints that they had received in relation to the birthing Injury advert and also informed us of their intention to investigate the matter.

‘We cooperated fully with them whilst they undertook their investigation and in light of the complaints that had been made in relation to the advert, we voluntarily removed it from air, prior to the conclusion of the ASA investigation.’