Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Medical Innovation Bill (nee "Saatchi Bill")

The "Draft Legislation of Medical Innovation Bill" (otherwise known as the "Saatchi Bill" after its sponsor) is about to end its consultation period and may then begin the process of becoming law.

The Consultation Document states that the Bills aims:
"would be to encourage responsible innovation in medical treatment in certain circumstances. It would do this by providing that, in those circumstances, it is not negligent for a doctor to depart from the standard medical treatment for a condition if the decision to do so is taken responsibly."

The draft bill can be found here

And the consultation (which ends on 25th April) is here

However, the Bill has a number of very serious, fundamental, flaws:

i) The Medical Defence Union, who one would think would be most supportive of a Bill that purports to protect doctors from litigation commented that it : "sees no need for new legislation"

ii) Doctors already have freedom to depart from medical guidelines (with the proviso that they are not negligent)

iii) The Bill allows quacks to prey on the vulnerable without fear of litigation.

There have been a number of supportive editorials in the media about the Bill, but the arguments presented are often plain wrong. To take just one example, an article by Maurice Saatchi himself in the Health Service Journal states that :
"Last year, thousands of women died of cancer...Scientific knowledge will not advance by one centimetre as a result of these thousands of deaths. Why? Because the deceased only receive the standard procedure − the endless repetition of a failed experiment. The entire process of scientific discovery is blocked − by law."

But this is simply not true. Medical science advances constantly, by the process of research (something that this Bill specifically bans), by the sharing of best practice, and by the need to ensure that patients are not put unnecessarily in harms way. Indeed this constant mortality rate from breast cancer has dropped by some 40% since 1990 !

Regarding patient protection, Dr Margaret McCartney has commented that the Bill allows a doctor to :
"propose anything and for it to be decreed ‘reasonable’. I am very clearly not a lawyer, but to pretend that this gives patients any protection from naked quackery would be misguided.”

Allowing quackery would allow in (and put beyond the law) charlatans like Stanislaw Burzynski who prey on the most vulnerable in society, for profit - such a situation would be the exact opposite of how a patient centred, evidence-based healthcare system should operate in the UK.

To push this point further, BFTF is concerned that the Bill would allow practitioners, when dealing with people who have exhausted every other avenue, to offer "treatments" like these that have no scientific basis for their efficacy

More information on the views of many stakeholders, here

Many of the problems with the Bill outlined in this Telegraph article. One commenter perhaps hits the nail on the head by saying "The Bill effectively declares the abandonment of the scientific method"

Tweeted local MP, Labour and Conservative parties to object to Bill and ask them whether they would be supporting it.

Update Oct 2014:Sent this to local MP:
"Really concerned about The Medical Innovation Bill "The Saatchi Bill" that is currently working its way through Parliament.

As many have pointed out, the Bill will not promote responsible innovation but will encourage irresponsible experimentation. It is designed to prevent lessons being learnt from the outcomes of treatment; it removes patients right to redress and it is not supported by any of the main medical organisations - not even the Medical Defense Union, who one would expect to be on board if the Bill was in any way helpful.

I am a layperson, so I don't see why you should care what my views are on the Bill - but I hope you DO care about what the BMA says :

"The BMA strongly believes that the draft Bill should not become law and... that primary legislation which focuses on redefining clinical negligence is the best mechanism to promote or encourage responsible innovation."

Can you reassure me that you will not be supporting the The Medical Innovation Bill?

Update Dec 2015:The Bill is back
Having been killed by the Lib Dems in the dying days of the coalition government, the Saatchi Bill is back, this time as the "Medical Innovation Bill" supported by Chris Heaton-Harris MP.

The Bill recently passed the "Money" stage, although BFTF was relieved local MP did not support it.

The bill is notable for the breathtaking comments from its supporters and for the inexplicable support it has with the government. Read more here .

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