The 2nd coming of the Medical Innovation Bill

Lord Saatchi has resurrected his unnecessary Medical Innovation Bill. Having run out of parliamentary time in the last session before the Election, the sensible folk amongst us thought that would be the end of it.

Unfortunately we were wrong. The Bill has been reintroduced to the House of Lords and had it’s first reading on 8th June.

Whereas before the Saatchi publicity machine supporting the bill was in full swing, enlisting the support of “media partner” the Daily Telegraph, on this occasion there is no media fanfare promoting the bill and urging support. Perhaps the bill’s supporters think that trying to get the bill through whilst no one is watching is a better tactical approach.

The bill was rejected by the Welsh Assembly last time around, and is opposed by many leading practitioners (both medical and legal) and organisations (for a full list see http://www.stopthesaatchibill.co.uk/what-do-doctors-lawyers-and-medical-charities-say/ ).

The supporters of the bill would have you believe that it is a panacea offering hope to those suffering from cancer and terminal illnesses. They believe that medical innovation is hindered by the fear felt by practitioners of legal action. The emotive strand that the bill offers hope to cancer sufferers is an attempt to build up support but only serves to provide false hope to those already desperate.
As drafted, the bill applies to all medical treatment, not just cancer and terminal illnesses. This is a point which the bill’s supporters have repeatedly dodged.

The bill states that it will not be regarded as negligent for a doctor to depart from the existing range of medical treatments for a condition (i.e. any medical condition not just cancer or terminal illness) if the decision to do so is taken “responsibly”.

However, the test to assess responsibility requires only that the doctor concerned must “obtain the views of one or more appropriately qualified doctors in relation to the proposed treatment” and “take full account” of those views. Essentially Quack Doctor 1 can ask Quack Doctor 2 what he or she thinks about the proposed treatment, or Quack Doctor 1 can ask for the views of Responsible Doctor 1, “take full account” of those views and then carry on regardless and with impunity.

The bill attempts to ensure that the patient is given the opportunity to provide proper consent to the proposed treatment but as Nigel Poole QC has pointed out in his blog at http://nigelpooleqc.blogspot.co.uk/ the bill completely fails to recognise that the law relating to consent to treatment has been significantly developed in recent months as a consequence of the Supreme Court decision in Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board [2015} UKSC 11.

In reality this Bill is not needed and if enacted has the capacity to remove the protection the law affords to some of the most vulnerable members of society. I urge you to contact your MP to ensure that the progress of this unwelcome legislation through Parliament is halted.