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APIL takes aim at ‘unnecessary’ Saatchi Bill

Amendments to the Medical Innovation Bill do not address patient safety concerns

27 October 2014

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The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has hit out at the Medical Innovation Bill claiming that vulnerable patients will be taking risks by putting their lives in the hands of 'maverick' and 'over-ambitious' doctors.

The controversial 'Saatchi Bill', which is continuing its passage through parliament by going to committee stage of the House of Lords this week, seeks to give protection to doctors who want to attempt different procedures in the treatment of cancer.

APIL has produced a 'Myth vs Reality' report to debunk claims made by supporters of the Medical Innovation Bill.

John Spencer, president of APIL and director of Spencers Solicitors, said: "We are worried about the myth that the Medical Innovation Bill would only apply to dying people who are willing to give anything a chance. In fact, the Bill will affect all patients who, in their vulnerability, may be tempted to take risks at the hands of maverick doctors who are over-ambitious in their drive to make names for themselves."

Earlier this year, health minister Earl Howe said that while he was supportive of the Bill, it was in need of reform before progressing through parliament. Lord Saatchi agreed to the government's amendment which require at least one additional expert to 'sign off' the treatment or procedure being used.

While the government now seems content with the Bill proceeding to the committee stage, APIL remains sceptical. Spencer commented: "Lord Saatchi's amendments to the Bill do not address concerns about patient safety raised by doctors, patient groups, and medical research organisations. Under the Bill, a doctor needs to only 'obtain the views' of an 'appropriately qualified doctor' before undertaking an innovative treatment. Crucially, he would not have to act on those views, and we still don't know what an 'appropriately qualified doctor' is."

Spencer continued: "The Bill is both ill-conceived and completely unnecessary. We hear wonderful stories of medical breakthroughs every day, and have heard no cases of a doctor being sued for using an innovative treatment. The current legal requirement of doctors has been helping to protect patients for nearly 60 years. If a lack of understanding is in fact stopping some doctors from taking what could be the best course of action for their patients, then there should be an effort to educate, not legislate."

John van der Luit-Drummond is legal reporter for Solicitors Journal

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Clinical negligence