The Saatchi Bill will make it much easier for doctors to innovate safely in the interests of their patients.
At the same time, it will expose the doctor who wishes to exploit their patient, preying on them and their vulnerability in order to attempt a reckless experiment.
Doctors will not be protected by the Saatchi Bill unless they go through a rigorous and specific process to ensure that the attempted innovation is the right course of action for the patient.
As the draft Bill states in paragraph 2 (3a) a doctor wishing to try a new treatment – for example in the case where standard treatments aren’t working – must consult a body of senior and relevant medical experts and get their consent.
The doctor must also record their opinion, including and dissenting voices.
The decision of the panel of experts must then be presented to the patient – including any contrary opinions if there are any – and the patient must of course also agree to go through with the innovative treatment.
Finally, the note of the opinions must then be attached to the patient’s consent form as a permanent record.
Only then will the doctor be legally covered by the Bill.
The Bill imposes a much higher standard of consent than other health legislation.
For example in order to section a patient, the Mental Health Act requires the signatures of only two doctors.
Currently, it is easier now for a doctor to indulge in reckless experimentation and maverick medicine, than it will be if the Bill becomes law.
As it now stands – without the Saatchi Bill – a doctor can attempt to persuade a vulnerable patient to embark on a dangerous treatment path.
This is so because the doctor technically doesn’t need to refer to a panel of experts before trying the non-standard procedure. He or she can act alone.
So, the Medical Innovation Bill supports and encourages reasoned innovation – and exposes the maverick.
Lord Woolf: Former Master of the Roles and Lord Chief Justice:
[The Bill] could give confidence to medical practitioners engaged in the field of treatment of cancer that in appropriate circumstances they could safely recommend and implement a course of treatment, or non-treatment , which some, or indeed the majority of their professional colleagues, might regard as unorthodox.
I have come to this conclusion because it is, in my view, undoubtedly the case that there is insufficient certainty as to the course which courts will adopt in this country at the present time when faced with an allegation that a medical practitioner’s treatment of a patient was inappropriate because of its innovative nature.
[There is] a risk that the present state of the law could inhibit the proper development of treatment of particular cancers.
Any way of avoiding this by legislation, in my opinion, should be welcomed. I would therefore hope that in the Lords, at any rate, your Bill will be well received.