European campaign seeks to confront threat to MRI

January 28, 2010

Recently, thousands of European radiologists have received an e-mail with this rather alarmist heading: “EU directive still threatens MRI.” Another e-mail doing the rounds has an equally sensational title: “No more MRI in Europe?”

Recently, thousands of European radiologists have received an e-mail with this rather alarmist heading: “EU directive still threatens MRI.” Another e-mail doing the rounds has an equally sensational title: “No more MRI in Europe?”

The first point to note is that this is not spam. The bureaucrats in Europe have got themselves into a ludicrous and needless muddle during the past few years, and there is no sign of the issue being resolved in the near future. There are genuine concerns that the daily use of MRI may be restricted because of regulations designed to protect people.

So how did this situation arise?

The European Union’s Physical Agents (Electromagnetic Field) Directive was originally set to take effect in April 2008, but as this deadline approached, information about the legislation’s likely impact on routine clinical work and MR research was widely distributed. The Alliance for MRI was formed to raise awareness of the potential problems, and the European Commission (EC) announced in late October 2007 that implementation of the EMF directive would be put on hold.

Many radiologists thought the threat had passed, but the EC only granted a postponement until April 30, 2012. This was to allow time for a major amendment to be adopted, but things rarely happen fast in Brussels.

The EC is at a standstill at the moment because inauguration of the new commissioners is still pending. It was due to publish the draft of the revised directive in early 2010, but the draft will not be available before June. This stagnation has caused the Alliance for MRI to urge everybody involved with MRI to sign its petition and lobby the EC again.

The petition will definitely remain open until mid-March. The Alliance for MRI is hoping to get at least several thousand signatories, and is already close to 900. It has sent briefing papers and instructions to the national radiological societies, whose support is deemed essential. Its officers are also in regular contact with patient groups, and as soon as possible they plan to discuss the matter with the new commissioner, as well as those in charge of the dossier within the EC and key members of the European Parliament sitting on the relevant committees. It is also conducting an information campaign at the European Congress of Radiology, to be held in Vienna March, 4 to 8.

If you want to find out more about this topic and sign the petition, you can visit this page on the ESR’s website.

Mr. Ward is editor of Diagnostic Imaging Europe.