MP’s Friday “fun”

MP’s Friday “fun”

Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, spoke in confused, confabulatory, support for the Chris Heaton-Harris version of the Saatchi Bill – ‘Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill’. In doing so, he ensured that not only would the Bill – criticised by patient safety experts, Royal Colleges, doctors, medical research organisations and more- get through its second reading; but also bolstered his filibustering of the next item, the  Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) BillAfter all, who needs safe medical treatment, or a safe home to live in? 

Earning the accolade of ‘friend to rogue landlords’ last year by blocking the Tenancies (Reform) Bill to prevent eviction for asking for basic repairs in rented property, he’d been ‘unrepentant’ in the Independent:

“When I first got elected to Parliament my mentor was Eric Forth [the former Tory MP] and he really was the past master of talking out bills on a Friday… He did it for fun and he was brilliant at it. After he died I vowed I would do the same kind of work.”     …you can’t pass legislation on the whim of a worthy sentiment because it affects people’s lives and livelihoods.”

Soon after blocking Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill and endorsing the thoroughly terrible Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill, he spent 90 minutes blocking the Hospital Parking Charges Bill, which would have allowed free parking for carers in hospitals.  It’s not just Davies MP, but he certainly is the most prolific of the boys crowd who seem to get their kicks from this, without thought or care to the people who will be affected by their behaviour. 

 “To see the government playing games with it and to think that’s clever and funny is obscene.” – Labour MP Julie Bailey

Not content with voting through the very real risk of maiming individuals without consideration of their safety; and then increasing the financial burden on their carers, while they live in a home unfit for human habitation (which is alright, he’s a landlord so can’t be distracted from parliamentary duties by such matters as ensuring safe housing of tenants..) he turned his attention to what happens when one of them requires emergency life support – such as after a cardiac arrest, possibly brought on by exposure to toxic contaminants leaking into their rented house. Well, of course, why would those people be a priority? 

Presumably doing it “for fun” Davies MP and others set about blocking a backbench bill that had the support of the British Heart Foundation, St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross, as well as Resuscitation Council UK, the British Cardiovascular Society, PTA UK, the Royal College of Nursing, Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, Heartsafe Leicestershire and more.  The Compulsory Emergency First Aid Education (State-funded Secondary Schools) Bill would have ensured that emergency first aid/life support skills were taught as part of the national curriculum in state secondary schools. 


The British Heart Foundation are clear in their call to create ‘A Nation of Lifesavers’: More than 30,000 people have a cardiac arrest each year outside of hospital. Fewer than one in ten survive (e.g. 8.6% survival in 2013). The BHF have produced ‘Call Push Rescue’ kits for schools to teach CPR, and kits for workplaces and community groups. They run ‘HeartStart’ training schemes, and provide equipment for emergency life saving training to be run in a scheme for schools and colleges backed by St John Ambulance, SJA LINKS, the London Ambulance Service and the London medical schools, Saving Londoners Lives’. The British Red Cross have excellent teaching resources

But not all children are taught CPR, let alone other emergency life support. These are voluntary schemes, requiring funding and well trained volunteers and their time. For something so vital, this patchwork, unsupported provision is not enough – it doesn’t reach everyone. The BHF estimate that, although many thousands of children receive training at secondary school through HeartStart, the reach is just not enough overall.  In 2013, 70,000 were trained: just 2% of the total number of secondary age children.  In countries and states where ELS is part of the curriculum, including France, Norway, Denmark, Sweden; survival rates for out of hospital cardiac arrests far outstrip those of the UK.   In the UK, people are more likely to look the other way in public, and be unable to help at home. It’s no exaggeration to say this is life or death, on a very far reaching scale. Every child deserves to know how to save the life of a friend, a sibling, a parent. 


Peter Aldous: When she was 14, Samantha saved her mother’s life.  She said: “It is horrible to think what could have happened if I had not known CPR.”  In those countries where CPR is taught in schools, survival rates are more than double those of the UK.  If we could match our survival rates with those of Norway we could save 5,000 lives each year.


“Why on earth would I allow a bill that principle of which I don’t like a second reading?”

Speaking for 50 minutes to crash it into the rocks, his reasoning included that he simply did not agree with the principle of it. Other things I gather Davies MP doesn’t like in principle include gay marriage, international aid, international women’s day.  He’d been taught first aid and had forgotten what he was taught, he said. 

“I remember doing a first aid course at school, but I have to admit that if I were faced with a medical emergency, I would struggle to remember all the training I received. In that sense it would be rendered completely useless. That would apply to many of those who would go through first aid training at school, particularly if they were not paying attention because they did not want to be there in the first place.”

His failure to keep his first aid skills up to date, or indeed to pay attention in the first place, perhaps reinforced his conviction that it’s a waste of time. 

“If this Bill is so easy for schools to implement—it is said that it will save time, save money and save lives—then there is absolutely nothing to stop them from introducing first aid courses now as part of the existing curriculum….My point, which is very relevant to the Bill, is that all these things, very worthy in themselves, are like a salami slicer.   A serious effect of the Bill is that it will take up time in the curriculum… it is perfectly clear that spending extra time on English would be far more beneficial than a two-hour course in first aid, regardless of whether that is worth while.”


“I do not think first aid is worth teaching in schools”      The apparently more pressing concern was that people wouldn’t join the scouts.


Sir Roger Gale: I understand what my hon. Friend is saying… but the bottom line, as my hon. Friend knows and as I know, is that the overwhelming majority of children, for whatever reason, do not take advantage of any of those schemes. We are talking about life and death, and he ought to consider that very seriously indeed.

Philip Davies: I take my hon. Friend’s point, but I will explain why I do not think first aid is worth teaching in schools. My fear is if we start doing in school all the things that happen at the scouts, the guides and the Duke of Edinburgh’s award, there will be no point in people joining them, and these very worthy organisations—

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. We are not debating what is provided by the scouts, the guides or anyone else. This is about the provision of first aid training. We do not want to get into all the activities those organisations do or try to compare the two. You understand that, Mr Davies. You are very good.

Philip Davies: The point I am trying to make, Mr Deputy Speaker—I apologise if I am making it in a ham-fisted way—is why the Bill is unnecessary. We are discussing whether the Bill should be enacted, and I am making the point—I apologise if I appear to be doing it in a deviant manner, but I assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I am not doing so intentionally—that the Bill is unnecessary, for the reasons I am giving. I hope that is well within the scope of the debate.

Teresa Pearce: Surely the Bill would be unnecessary only if everybody was trained in first aid? We know clearly that only a very small proportion of people in this country are.

Philip Davies: It would be very worth while if everybody joined the scouts.

In dismissing its inclusion, Davies entirely missed what’s in the National Curriculum – which is firmly supported by first aid training – (and was also wrong when he claimed it does not include sex education)

firstaidAnd despite the evident lack of expertise, he was happy to assert how teachers would feel  and leapt in to refute some of the arguments used  to support Chris Heaton-Harris MP’s widely condemned Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill. 

Philip Davies: I am very sorry that people seem to think they can come here with a worthy sentiment and expect it just to be nodded through because it is a worthy sentiment. That is not the purpose of this House; the purpose is to try to scrutinise legislation, and some of us take that seriously. 

Sir Roger Gale: I have been in this House for 32 years, and I think I know my way around the Bill procedures. I think I am right in saying that if a Bill has a Second Reading, it usually then goes into Committee, where it can be studied line by line and, if necessary, amended line by line. I would like to think that given that this is a matter of life and death, my hon. Friend might allow this Bill to have a Second Reading and then allow it to be dissected, if necessary, in Committee.

Philip Davies: It is not often that my hon. Friend makes a ludicrous argument, but I am afraid he has just done so. That would be like saying that any Bill should automatically be nodded through on its Second Reading because then we can amend it to how we would like it in Committee. That is not how this place works… I do not agree with the principle of compulsory emergency first aid education in schools, so why on earth would I want to allow such a Bill a Second Reading, any more than he would vote for the Second Reading of a Bill whose principle he disagrees with? That is how this place works.

The debate was adjourned to Friday 29 January 2016, while Sam Gyimah MP continued reading lists. 

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Double, Double Toil and Trouble

The leaves are turning rusty brown, the weather turning crisper.  John Lewis are selling ghostly tinsel for Halloween. But something rather more scary is on the horizon.

Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill reappeared after its demise in the last parliament. The legislative zombie crept back to the Lords and a motion was scheduled for it to be fast-tracked.  In the meantime, Lord Saatchi heralded Chris Heaton-Harris MP’s private members ballot win as the next carrier of the Bill’s baton before Mr Heaton-Harris admitted this himself.   It is now very clear that Saatchi was correct.

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This next Saatchi Bill, be it Saatchi (No.9 3/4), Mambo (No.5), was ‘won’ by Chris Heaton Harris MP when his name came up in the draw and the Saatchi lobby were in. It has just been published in draft form and it would appear that Mr Heaton-Harris sat back and thought of England while it was being drafted. Nurtured through the medium of cut and paste by the Department of Health, it is an almost identical replica of the much-criticised Saatchi horror, with some clangers thrown in to spin it in a better light without any substantive change to the concerning aspects of the original(s). 

As Sir Robert Francis QC observed in his comments over a year ago on Saatchi’s Bill; 

‘The evidence relied on by Lord Saatchi…does not provide the convincing support claimed. The difficulties that have caused so many drafts to be produced suggest that if there is to be legislation a more considered and less rushed approach is called for if we are to be satisfied that the patients who are intended to be benefit from this Bill, and patients generally, are not exposed to increased danger and risk.’

‘The number of attempts at this Bill suggest it is not the right answer… the deficiencies all versions show indicate that it would be quite wrong to rush legislation through… Considered scrutiny is required … calm assessment of the evidence of what are the real problems in practice.’

Despite evidence, reports, and meetings with concerned parties and expert organisations at the Heaton-Harris fingertips it seems that none of what made Saatchi’s originals awful has been removed. Indeed it is a reproduction of the original, with a database.  Everything that made the originals terrible still stands. And despite the alluring title of Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill, it contains nothing at all about access to medical treatments or innovation for patients, and nothing at all to address such access issues for their doctors.  

Indeed what it does is: preserve a complete defence to negligence for doctors who are actually so bad, so irresponsible, so irrational, so illogical in their treatment decisions, that they would be classed as negligent.  These are the only doctors it helps.  Not the majority of doctors, but the very minority that should not be protected by the law.

It does not preserve the common law tests of Bolam/Bolitho but jumbles concepts into nonsense.  It would prevent people who are injured from obtaining compensation to help them live or help them pay for the carers they need after sustaining injuries from negligent treatment decisions – all this despite there being no evidence that innovative treatment forms the basis of such claims.  It does nothing to ensure a patient is in the driving seat and improve communication and informed decision making, and nothing to address any barriers to accessing treatments that may actually help patients.

It applies squarely to those decisions which no other doctor would support or which are so indefensibly irrational that they are negligent.

It does not limit the scope of the Bill in the patients it can apply to or in what is classed as innovation, and thus does not limit the scope of this defence. Homeopathic remedies for childhood leukaemia would be a-okay under this defence if the process was followed when deciding to give a dying child a homeopathic tincture, rather than chemotherapy or another proven treatment and rather than include them in a global trial for a promising drug for their precise diagnosis. A wildly experimental drug from a pharmaceutical company the prescriber is a shareholder in, one that shortens lives and removes all quality of life for those who take it and inflicts a terminal suffering, sold as hope in a capsule- well, yeah that wouldn’t be a problem either. 

It adds a completely separate concept of a database – ignoring the fact that such results are meaningless without clear methodology in data collection, reporting and conduct and patient selection, ignoring swathes of data security concerns, confidentiality factors, EU regulatory and even insurance issues; all the while missing the entire point of such initiatives as the AllTrials campaign which are very worthy of support. Nevertheless any such database could operate without the firmly refuted Saatchi Bill proforma defence for negligence.  The ‘that sounds good let’s say that’ hooks added for selling points are completely meaningless, confused, soundbites that demonstrate a lack of understanding and substance. Patients deserve better care than that. 

For excellent analysis please see:

Chris Heaton-Harris Resurrects Lord Saatchi’s Zombie Quacks’ Charter

Learned Friend: Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill 2015

and

this paper: Bye Bye Bolitho? The Curious Case of the Medical Innovation Bill

 

More Trick than Treat

cauldronLord Saatchi’s PMB has tortuously rattled around despite loud criticism from all key experts, medical organisations, research and patient charities. Unusually, a No.2 bill procedure was used to introduce it into the Lords and the Commons simultaneously in 2012. Much criticism led to its withdrawal from the Commons and a second draft, the Medical Innovation (No.2) Bill, in the Lords. A Department of Health consultations as issued on the second version of this, and this consultation closed in April 2014. Before the responses were published, a new, third draft had been written and announced as improved and an answer to all criticism. Its first reading in the Lords, a formality, was on 5 June 2014 and its second took place on 27 June 2014. It was amended again following the second reading, and it entered committee stage as its fourth version, with 39 amendments tabled. It was amended again prior to Report stage, and again thereafter, and again (v7, mark 2).   Once to the Commons Saatchi thought he’d get extra time in the last parliament to push it through and into law before the general election – despite legislative consent being unanimously rejected by a country. Indeed, if no MP objected and no amendments were tabled it could have been rushed through to Royal Assent in a day. Sarah Wollaston and Julian Huppert arranged a rota so that one of them, at least, would be around to object. When debating time and special deals were hanging in the balance the coalition government parted ways when someone said hang on, all the stakeholders say this is dangerous – let’s not do this.  

Despite the ongoing opposition from across the board: medical organisations, patient charities and groups, research charities, academics, legal and patient safety experts, Lord Saatchi reintroduced his Bill in 2015/16 in the configuration it had left the Lords – and a motion to set aside SO46 (Standing Order 46 of the House of Lords, a rule that no two stages of a Bill shall be taken in one day) was scheduled which would allow a fast tracked passing back to the Commons and even passing its stages in one day, averting the proper scrutiny of the chambers.   The motion to set aside SO46 is still scheduled for November and would allow the original Medical Innovation (No.2) Bill to pass. But Lord Saatchi has now confirmed that Chris Heaton-Harris’s private members bill IS the Medical Innovation Bill handed over, and thus given more time to run. 

The second reading of the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill is now scheduled for 16 October 2015 in the House of Commons.

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Anticoagulation, powdered owl & an outlier on the spectrum of reason

A GP with decades of experience in practice and medical education, Dr Wollaston became an MP in 2010 after an open primary in Totnes. Her invaluable experience and insight on national and local issues of importance as well as her specialist expertise made her the ideal choice to inform the Westminster vacuum.

She was soon appointed to the Health Select Committee, a cross-party committee to hold the government and health bodies to account and make policy recommendations. In 2014 she was elected Chair. She did a fantastic job in the role and it would be a terrible disservice to health policy, the committee and the government’s credibility if she were not Chair again. Very few are as qualified and appropriate for the role and,  felt keenly with the absence of such MPs as Julian Huppert on this occasion, we need to maximise the insightful few that we have. She’s also a rather great role model.

Her challenger for the role is David Tredinnick.

Why is that news? Well it’s perhaps not that newsworthy I guess, and that’s what’s scary. 

David Tredinnick’s appointment to the Health Select Committee itself was really quite shocking, but that was way back in 2010. Though inapposite, add in the company of other desperately unqualified persons such as Nadine Dorries and it’s no longer a surprise.   

Tredinnick, MP is so out there he’s ‘a hallucinogenic substance in his own right’.  He is a big supporter of his own variant of astrology, not only claiming for personal development courses, but once claiming expenses from taxpayers for £755.33 of ‘computer software and consultancy to investigate whether astrology can be linked to alternative medicine.’

In the House of Commons he has stated emphatically that blood does not clot on a full moon, and surgeons won’t operate on full moons. Indeed his fear of the moon has been raised on a number of occasions.   He launched a tirade of EDMs at the indignance of people who knew what they were talking about to talk about stuff, like homeopathy; and relied upon so-completely-unambiguously-discredited studies to support his claims, even those which claimed to cure cancer and where authors asked to be removed from papers. 

Like Australia have concluded, our Science and Technology Committee found homeopathy useless. David Tredinnick then joined the Committee.  

He still believes astrology should be used more often in healthcare in the UK.  Recently in 2015 he reiterated the virtues of astrology as “a useful diagnostic tool enabling us to see strengths and weaknesses via the birth chart” and proclaimed that astrology and complementary medicine “would help take the huge pressure off doctors”. So much for Francis and safe staffing. Perhaps NICE have already a-okayed this as it’s clearly cheaper to replace legitimate health policy with the nuttier side of woomongery’. 

‘How to handle the ongoing issue of having this bizarre, deeply wrongheaded man in a position of influence over matters that demand evidence-based decision making?’ asked Adam Rutherford, 5 years ago.   The indulgence of his personal interest in astrology to the detriment and exclusion of real matters for his constituents and for the health of the nation has not gone unnoticed in parliament either. 

But now this man, who Professor Brian Cox politely termed ‘an outlier on the spectrum of reason’  not only wants to be on it, he has been nominated to chair the Health Select Committee. 

Beating cancer with astrology

Beating cancer with astrology

Almost impossible to parody it’s not actually funny.

These are not the affable, eccentricities of your distant uncle or your old headmaster. This is not harmless.

Championing discredited studies as evidence in parliament, including for cancer treatment, is deeply contemptible. Steering health policy in this way is like crashing it into the dover cliffs. It’s not “the awesome power of the moon” flinging it there – it’s Westminster sinking itself, and the rest of us in the process. 

More from Professor Cox here. 

 

No time is a good time for SARAH

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The ludicrous SARAH Bill received Royal Assent last week.

I’m struggling to imagine a better social action than firing Chris Grayling strapped to a rocket, into the North Sea. Perhaps Section 2 of the Act would consider any actions favourably.

2. Social action


‘The court must have regard to whether the alleged negligence or breach of statutory duty occurred when the person was acting for the benefit of society or any of its members.’


I didn’t ignore the ‘SARAH Bill’. It seemed more inert than certain other Bills of irritation – Indeed it seemed utterly pointless.  It seems, too, that I wasn’t alone in dismissing SARAH.

“so anodyne and pointless that the only appropriate response is a shrug of the shoulders or the raising of an eyebrow” – David Pannick QC

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What I did sideline was the possibility of this pointless political priapism either being passed in the first place or widening its reach and malingering into something more sinister, more damaging.

Why would it?  Why pass it?  Key concerns have included the scope of its effect and potential interpretation.  Would it be relied upon by the MoD? who would be targeted by this potential creeping mini-assault on access to justice? is it to minimise costs of incompetence in charge of public bodies and organisations failing in health and safety matters? would it be used in all cases where an injury is sustained as a result of negligence but judicially or socially acceptable negligence? what of the inequalities in acceptability? are there any? is this a legislative means to nudge the public, control the populus? what limits it? why does it exist?

What kind of a message does it seek to send?  go forth lad, tracheotomise thy inebriated friend?

Having spent countless hours securing C-spines with pre-hospital care, St John Ambulance and teaching first aid in schools and colleges … the very best potential intention jars somewhat with the need to control the scene. A, B, C, Danger.

Ketamine for Grayling.

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Any the wiser?

Why does it exist? Why should we allow legislation that was never necessary in the first place?   A legislative fix for a problem that doesn’t exist seems awfully bureaucracy-heavy and plain silly.

Lord Lloyd ‘s move to stop a second reading fell on deaf earssarahpng

as did his comments in the Lords.

“In truth the Bill is unamendable. That was the view taken by the Law Society, and it was right. The Bill is so defective in all three operative clauses that the only feasible amendment is to take each of the three clauses in turn and remove it from the Bill, one by one.”

“The Lord Chancellor has said over and over again that the purpose of the Bill is to send out signals – signals to the judges and signals to the public. I will say no more about sending out signals to the judges. What about signals to the public? If, as we are told, the intention is, for example, to increase the number of volunteers, or to reduce the number of spurious claims, surely the way to do that is for Ministers to appear on television and write to the papers.

…does it not follow that the Bill is a misuse by the Government of the legislative process? I say it again – I and many others have said it many times – that the purpose of legislation is to make law that can be enforced in the courts.  It is not to send out Government messages, however well intentioned.”

“This Bill is indeed exceptional. Not because it is of any importance but because it is of no importance at all. It is useless.”Lord Lloyd of Berwick

Now, while it’s both irritating and alarming that inert piffle can pass as law without much ado in this country, perhaps I can live with that.  But why is the government legislating unnecessarily, with no mandate at all, no legitimate purpose? an infringement on the rule of law, on separation of powers if intended to coerce judicial decisions and interpretation of existing statute in a particular way?   Worse still, how do we know this is as suspected, a culture-speak, a foolproof non-entity? a meritless, vote-aiming ploy? creating a nation of heroes sure sounds like a voter-aimed ploy – but what in the above text really ensures its impotence?    all of it, you say?

Section 1 of the Compensation Act 2006 adequately covers what this intends to, if that was even required.

1. Deterrent effect of potential liability
A court considering a claim in negligence or breach of statutory duty may, in determining whether the defendant should have taken particular steps to meet a standard of care (whether by taking precautions against a risk or otherwise), have regard to whether a requirement to take those steps might—

  1. prevent a desirable activity from being undertaken at all, to a particular extent or in a particular way, or

  2. discourage persons from undertaking functions in connection with a desirable activity.

What effects will SARAH have on workplace injuries, for example? Grayling earlier vowed ‘to slay health and safety culture’ and  last week hailed  ‘a balance to counter the health and safety culture’ to provide reassurance to employers. He elaborated on businesses being ‘stifled by unnecessary insurance costs and the fear of being sued’.  Generally insurance is a good thing surely?  Is ‘the health and safety culture’ so terrible it requires a legislative snip? is this purposeful propagation of mythology?

Was SARAH constructed to move beyond personal injury?  what does  a ‘predominantly responsible way’ even mean?

Nigel Poole QC discusses concerns on his blog  in relation to SARAH being dragged into clinical negligence litigation: The SARAH Act 2015 – Similar Fact Evidence and Disclosure.    Clearly the text of the Act does not delineate when it will apply. Clearly if it can be used to the advantage of one party in litigation then lawyers would be somewhat bound to engaging with it.  Using the case of Laughton v Shalaby as an example Nigel Poole discusses the problems that may arise in future cases in relation to the evidential burdens and scope of disclosure required under SARAH.

Would a Court have to have regard to predominantly responsible approaches in all cases? The unlimited, ill-considered effects of the Act in practice would surely make litigation more lengthy, cumbersome and expensive and clog up the Courts unnecessarily. What of those harmed by true negligence? Would they be scuppered by the general vague gist of previous actions or vague idea of a vague aim of vaguely something good? Indeed, in the 2006 Act the judges ‘may’ take certain things into account. Under SARAH the word used is ‘must‘.

 

“Are they to say, in every negligence case, “I have had regard to this Bill”, so that people realise they are complying?” -Lord Lloyd

 

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The government should not legislate to send a message to the public through legislation; they should not legislate to correct false perceptions or misunderstandings- for education, infomercials, leafleting GP surgeries or their nearest Sainsbury’s would all prove more effective.  Why and how did the Commons and Lords allow this Frankenstein to get so far as it did?  Something’s very wrong in Parliament.  There is no doubt that this seems an anodyne, bafflingly pointless creature; but doubt remains over whether its effects will indeed creep in more than I’d dismissively believed.   Like spilt yoghurt on silk gowns.   Well, SARAH was Grayling’s creation.

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Honestly? patients deserve better

Lord Saatchi, between referencing his bereavement as the motivator for his bill, writes in the Telegraph that honest opposition to his bill has dispersed contentedly. Not so.

I experienced a very bad bereavement, indeed more than 5 significant ones within around 18 months, and it certainly did influence my decisions post-hoc. I had intrusive flashbacks of drawn out and agonising deaths, I was plagued by second guessing what I could have done or said differently, what I could have done to have altered the outcome, did I let them down by allowing them to do that, did I let them down by not insisting on more?  I crumbled entirely, indeed so much that I can never apologise adequately for the extent to which I fell apart. The experiences I went through and the profound and haunting loss had such a detonating influence on me that I tore my previous life to shreds, annihilated my job in a place with good colleagues, polite receptionists, comfy chairs and sensible pension schemes which gave out free cake and drinks and went back to the beginning, to medical school, to become a doctor. I also teach students and health care professionals, help others who have experienced traumatic bereavements and give time I don’t have in my committed work for a national charity.

So, I give a nod of respect to Lord Saatchi’s stated vision and aim and feel protective of his tenacity and drive to make a difference, make it matter and continue his strongest bonds and meaning through these activities, effecting positive, meaningful change.  I am however a firmly opposed critic, which doesn’t sit easily with me.

Why am I critical?   I do not admire how he appears to choose to abuse his power, wealth and political influence to exert control over a legislative catastrophe in his name. I do not admire deliberately falsifying the law, misrepresenting medical practice and nasty spin on his opponents. I couldn’t bear his misuse of grieving and aggrieved relatives as a PR victory.  I find his total lack of mandate from those whose opinions should matter and the lack of legitimacy in the process simply unconstitutional, arrogant, hubristic, chilling, recklessly harmful and misleading.

I’m critical because, with such power and influence, such drive to make a change, I am left wondering just why Lord Saatchi ignores the views of the medical profession who tell him this is unnecessary and undesirable, repeatedly ignores esteemed medical law experts who unanimously tell him he’s wrong on the law, ignores the views of patient groups and charities who are fearful of the consequences and ignores defence unions- whose role is to defend doctors on the front line and provide guidance on best practice.  Overlooking the failure to consult before his bill was ever launched, I can’t get past the failure to listen to an overwhelming body of opinion saying his idea was not based on the right law, was not required and would not help doctors or patients.        For, under his proposal, nobody wins. Doctors aren’t entirely able to be protected from being sued, for such is the likelihood of satellite litigation that many more doctors and their colleagues may be dragged into the churning mill of the legal process. They will also be swamped by his procedural red tape and lose the remaining crumbs of clinical autonomy trying to follow a procedural hoop-athon. It’s written to provide a benefit for only those who are truly negligent or even exploitative of desperation and hope-in-hype, which is precisely why some have termed this a ‘quack’s charter’. This is not however inert for non-quacks. It will have procedural and practical consequences for the vast majority who are committed and excellent doctors,  rendering them handicapped, bureaucratised, pressured yet uncertain of potential liabilities in an array of legally creative and expensive ways; and possibly, if Friday’s musings are to be followed up, it may leave them wide open to GMC fitness to practice investigations, and all in the name of Maurice Saatchi, the PR and advertising legend with no legal or medical background at all.

Patients do not gain any rights of access to a drug under this bill.  All they stand to gain is the knowledge they will have immeasurable difficulty in ever obtaining any form of redress for serious harm and suffering, serious care needs unmet by the health service, caused by defective drugs; for who is liable for these under the bill?; or an entirely negligent decision or unreasonable basis to treat. Their relatives gain the comforting knowledge that they ‘tried everything’, against the best possible knowledge of science, that could easily end in death, suffering and the removal of any quality of life for the patient.  They gain the knowledge that the ‘results’ of such experimentation are meaningless, and will help no future patient. A dehumanising, agonising and barbaric accolade.

Indeed, the bill doesn’t even solely apply to those with cancer, or nearing the end of their lives. This allows full-on experimentation, expressly and entirely unscientifically, and attempts to act as a defence, while simultaneously adding bureaucratic mayhem and managerial mandates for the good doctor, that still don’t combine for any logical purpose.  It does not make sense.  If it made sense, I’d be supportive and the medical defence organisations would be supportive.

It trashes the law and trashes the importance and respect for any scientific integrity and for a patient’s quality of life.  Patients deserve better than this. It’s frustrating, as in his esteemed, powerful position I would listen and put my name to something that might genuinely help others.  I’m still not honestly sure why he won’t.