Brother to the nefarious art collector Charles Saatchi, Lord Maurice Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill has received harsh criticism from the House of Lords, which will need to be taken into account before it hits the statute books.
The ‘Saatchi’ Bill
The Medical Innovation Bill – now dubbed the Saatchi Bill by the popular press – was drafted after Lord Saatchi lost his wife to ovarian cancer. The Saatchi Bill promises to lift the legal restrictions placed on doctors who want to treat their terminally ill patients with new and innovative drugs and surgeries but are currently afraid to do so due to the threat of litigation.
The inherent pragmatism in the proposal is unnerving for the Government whose primary concern is the protection of the vulnerable; ironically their caution may be actually preventing cancer patients from making a full recovery according to the Bill’s proponents. Of course, the chances of recovering from such grave illnesses as a result of treatments that have not been proven to have any beneficial effect is slim, but Saatchi maintains that any hope of recovery is a valuable commodity to both the patient and their family, and ought to be promoted.
The main criticisms were voiced by Health Minister Earl Howe who objected to the ability of “multidisciplinary teams” to oversee the treatments. Clearly, appropriately qualified doctors with significant experience will need to be put in place to supervise the administration of experimental treatments before the Saatchi Bill becomes law to prevent an exponential increase in medical negligence claims.
The balance between helping patients who have exhausted conventional treatment routes and protecting the doctors entrusted with caring for them is difficult to calculate but Saatchi remains optimistic. Speaking to the Law Society, Lord Saatchi maintains that the necessary amendments will be made to the Bill before it is presented to the House of Lords’ Committee in late October. The legislation will remain committed, however, to “safe and responsible innovation in a simple way.”
Implications for Bolam & Bolitho
“It moves the Bolam ‘responsible persons’ test from after the event to before the event…. The result is that doctors are not obliged to speculate in advance about what might happen in a subsequent trial, and they can move forward with confidence, safe in the support of a responsible body of medical persons.”
Accordingly, the Bolam test will only be moved and not removed, but this has not prevented the Medical Defence Union from speaking out. Dr Michael Devlin said, “We encourage doctors to innovate. They can do so without an increased threat of litigation, so long as they can show they acted in accordance with current legal and ethical principles governing clinical practice.”
We will endeavour to keep you informed as the Medical Innovation Bill passes through Parliament. If your doctor hasn’t acted in accordance with current legal and ethical principles governing clinical practice, and you have suffered an injury as a result, then contact Compensation Claim Today whose team of experienced medical negligence lawyers are here to help.