The BMJ – and Professor Susan Bewley’s excellent response

The BMJ recently published an article by Sir Michael Rawlins: here, entitled ‘The “Saatchi bill” will allow responsible innovation in treatment’.

I think I was a little too cross to respond at the time as it felt like another wonderful PR spin from the reaches of the Saatchi campaign, and all in all came across as self-contradictory, unquestioning of fact, and largely offensive to the intellect of most doctors, or so I would hope.

I was pleased to see rapid responses correcting the quote from the brilliant Butler-Sloss in Simms and stating the law accurately, including some points I have raised myself regarding compliance with a number of Directives and regulatory EU law. My faith has been restored if this was the extent of her so-called support for the Bill.

I was very pleased to read the insightful response by Professor Susan Bewley, cutting in its common-sense which can be read in full here

She raises the point very clearly that this legislation may not drive innovation at all – quite the contrary, and neatly sums up some most valid points.

‘It is both an insult, and dangerous, for one rich persuasive individual with deep pockets, access and influence to tell the medical profession that it has not been innovative (enough) and that we need a Bill to help us do what we already do safely and legally. This is not a simple cultural debate – it is a category error’

‘Hype about ‘innovation’ is all, drives and is driven by commercial pressures and desperate clients, and it seems bizarre to accelerate this’.

‘As medicine already has lots of laws, good practice, governance and the normal academic and clinical safeguards, there is no need to add more polish to the Bill of the sorts of ‘good’ things that happen anyway.’

She points out that it would be inflexible, and anti-innovation if codified in the law, written in the past ‘that largely operates after the event.’

What happened to “First of all, do no harm”? This Bill is not needed, it is not the right prescription for the wrongly thought through diagnosis. Bad doctors come up with treatments and then justify them. That is what Lord Saatchi is doing. The solution was found and now comes the justification. Starting a PR campaign and then finding lots of people agreeing might feel familiar and comfortable to him, but it really should carry no weight with us. It’s misleading to think ‘votes’ or even the ‘opinions’ of the great and good change scientific or medical facts. He really oughtn’t be influenced by the agreement he and his Bill Team set out to find. Good scientists, innovators and lawyers pay a lot more attention to areas of weakness and disagreement.

The Bill just doesn’t make sense. The only people who can assuredly benefit from devising new law are barristers specialising in legislation or members of the ‘Bill Team’ driving this project.

Sir Rawlins, “I rest my case”


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