Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill and the new ‘Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill’, due for its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday 16th October, are cut from the same cloth – and it’s no Ede & Ravenscroft. Indeed, the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill shares a similarly alluring [and similarly misleading] title – and contains the same wording, the same premise and the same risks and problems as Saatchi’s originals.
Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill, version 7 or so, was not given extra special preferential deal time in the last parliament – if you’ll believe the Telegraph, it was “killed off” and Nick Clegg has “the blood of cancer patients on his hands” (having inspected I can confirm his hands are warm, well perfused, no Osler nodes, splinter haemorrhaging or blood of millions) – but, the Bill declared dead, deader than dead and gone, made a rather sprightly reappearance as soon as possible under the new parliament. Now back in the House of Lords, Lord Saatchi put forward a motion to suspend SO46 which, if agreed, would permit his creation to pass through any number of stages on the same day.
Meanwhile, Saatchi endorsed a then-unannounced, entirely unwritten, conservative MP’s Private Members Bill as a new incarnation of his Medical Innovation Bill, carrying forward the Saatchi Bill to the Commons. I get the impression that Chris Heaton-Harris is probably a nice guy who has some good ideas and probably has reasonable hands- indeed he wasn’t wholly sold on Saatchi’s plan himself – but whatever has pressed him into using his PMB ballot win on his/Saatchi’s new ‘Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill’ – recently published – must be worth his while.
Now the really perplexing part. I mean, sure, it was perplexing to begin with – Lord Saatchi’s assertions in the House of Lords, articles in the Bill’s ‘media partner’ the Telegraph, google hangouts and briefing documents, included the following:
‘Current law requires that patients receive only standard procedure – the endless repetition of a failed experiment.’
‘In this way, the current law is a barrier to progress in curing cancer. It defines medical negligence as deviation from standard procedure. In other words, any deviation from standard procedure by a doctor could currently result in a verdict of guilt for medical negligence. However, as innovation is deviation, non-deviation is non-innovation.’
“The sentence of this Court is that you be taken from hence to the place of execution and that each of you there will be hanged by the neck until you be dead. And may Almighty God have mercy on your souls”
‘….much the same can be heard in every cancer ward in every NHS hospital every hour of every day
… those condemned by cancer suffer a worse fate than the worst mass murderer.
…While they await execution, they are tortured. For them, hair loss is the good news. Less good news is that their treatment regime—the drugs and the cycles of their administration, and the surgical procedures—are often 40 years old. They create the same symptoms as the disease: nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting and fatigue. A beautiful woman’s legs turn into elephant’s legs; her arms begin to make a heroin addict’s arms look attractive; and her bosoms turn into raisins’
‘The self-interest of medical practitioners…means that innovation (i.e. deviation) is a form of self-harm’
and so on, and on and on.
Er – right. Well, no; wrong. It is simply wrong. So wrong, that it’s hard to believe this can be serious.
Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill was met with widespread criticism from expert academics in law, medicine, medical defence and doctors’ representative organisations, the regulator, the Royal Colleges, patient safety charities, medical research charities, clinicians, the National Assembly for Wales, and the likes of Sir Robert Francis QC and Sir Ian Kennedy QC, all of whom restated the correct law and emphasised the serious dangers and problems, and entirely flawed premise. The Department of Health consultation responses, withheld for some time, also revealed that just 10% would support it as it was.
‘The number of attempts at this Bill suggest it is not the right answer
Each time objection has been raised to the Bill and its contents a different version is forthcoming.’
‘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.’
Medical Innovation Bill – Comments of Sir Robert Francis QC 23 June 2014
So, despite its intense polishing and spin, no-one with insight can possibly support it. There is no evidence to support its existence. It does not stand up to scrutiny.
Yet the situation today is this:
Chris Heaton-Harris MP has taken the Bill forward in the House of Commons – replicating the harmful bits, and adding some more.
MPs are being presented with a whole brochure of masterful spin.
Sensing opposition rumbling, and the fact there’s no evidence in its favour, the medical innovation bill team have emailed asking for ‘stories’.. (‘cos that’s what sells stuff)
This would all have a bit of comedic value for a 10 minute exaggerated sketch. But the mild bemusement at the return of this spectacle makes way for a grim disquiet. The serious threat to patient safety, the woeful misapplication of the law, the distortion, confusion and hurdles for doctors, and the absolute refusal to acknowledge any real barriers to innovation – aren’t funny at all.
Stop the Bill now! was the plea from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, who note the ‘sinister’ and ‘disastrous’ Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill would place patients at grave risk; the Royal College of Surgeons has said it risks harming vulnerable patients and unequivocally opposes the Bill; RCSEd have told MPs it is unnecessary, dangerous and offers no practical assistance for responsible doctors -and the Medical Royal Colleges have made their opposition clear. Again, the BMA have warned it is an unnecessary and nevertheless crude tool, that is counterproductive and would have implications for patient safety, and AvMA, charity for patient safety and justice, have expressed deep concern at the proposed, unnecessary, legislation- fraught with unintended and dangerous consequences.