I used to think that the day would never come…

The 2015/16 session of parliament has ended and this Bill will make no further progress. Well done Stop the Saatchi Bill!

adieu

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World first innovation in cancer therapy at Great Ormond Street

The twinkling eyes and smile of Layla Richards shine out from many newspaper front pages today – and for a newsworthy reason. A world first treatment for her Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia was tried out by doctors at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital. 

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All of this went on without the Medical Innovation Bill or Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill.

Photo: Great Ormond Street Hospital

Lord Saatchi has consistently framed the need for his legislation with tales of denials of a potential cure, ‘wasted lives’, ‘cut and drilled’ on traumatic trajectories to death, as an uncaring and purely self-interested medical profession looks on.    

‘Current law in relation to medical negligence contributes to this failure. It defines medical negligence as deviation from standard procedure. But as innovation = deviation, then non-deviation = non- innovation.

The result is that all cancer deaths are wasted lives. The deaths, and their attendant tragedies, have not advanced scientific knowledge by one centimetre.

Why?

Because all the deceased have received is the standard procedure – the endless repetition of a failed experiment.’
–  Lord Maurice Saatchi

The rationale for the legislation was, apparently, and as has been written about extensively, to change the law and in turn encourage more doctors to innovate. 

The ‘current law obliges the doctor to follow the status quo, even though he/she knows it leads only to poor life quality followed by death.’

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His claims have been repeated in briefing documents, in the press, at meetings, in the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

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There is no need to change the law of negligence – as this already permits innovative practice. Nor is there any evidence to suggest any case in negligence has arisen due to responsible innovation in treatment, regardless of the outcome. Indeed there are many examples where the legal position is used expressly to favour an innovative approach. 

Those responding to the consultation and responding in an unwaveringly loud chorus against the proposals of any variation of the Bill have made it clear that if there are barriers to innovative treatment, the law of negligence is not the issue. Changing it will not help doctors, and will not help patients. Nor will it be inert. It is a deeply misguided attempt that is not based on evidence – ‘a solution in search of a problem and not  very sound solution at that’, surmised the National Assembly for Wales. The interim report of the Accelerated Access Review led by Sir Hugh Taylor makes no mention of the law of negligence or the fear of it as an obstruction to accessing innovative treatments. No legal, medical or research organisation supports this assertion either. The proposals would destroy the law that operates responsively and permissively to allow responsible innovation to happen today. 

It is time for Chris Heaton-Harris, Lord Saatchi and the Department of Health to recognise when it’s time to stop and- if truly concerned about patients and access to treatments-  assess any of the genuine barriers to access and support a change that would help, rather than harm doctors and patients – children like Layla in future. 

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Photo: Great Ormond Street Hospital

Layla’s case

Read: Full account of Layla’s experience at GOSH

Baby Layla was diagnosed with ALL at 14 weeks. She received a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy but they were not successful.  Shortly before her first birthday all normal treatments were exhausted, and her cancer was incurable. Her parents asked if anything else could be done.

A highly experimental therapy – tried only in mice- used TALEN gene editing technology to enzymatically deactivate genes in healthy donor T cells and precisely edit DNA to create ‘designer ‘cells targeted to the cancer that would withstand the necessary medication. After a 1ml infusion of 50m engineered cells over 10 minutes, a second bone marrow transplant 2 months later and now just 3 months down the line, baby Layla has a restored immune response and has been declared ‘cancer free’.   This is the first time- ever- that human cells engineered using this technology have been given back to a patient. The first trial of gene editing therapy was published last year, where an approach using a different DNA editing enzyme was used for HIV. 

Layla’s case will require very close follow-up and monitoring to ensure that the therapy is as effective as it appears to be, and a trial is planned for the approach next year. 

As Professor Waseem Qasim said: “We have only used this treatment on one very strong little girl and we have to be cautious about claiming this will be suitable for all children. But this is a landmark in the use of new gene engineering technology and the effects on this child have been staggering. If replicated, it could represent a huge step forward in treating leukaemia and other cancers.”

Here’s to Layla and her family – fantastic and all the very best!

I’ve been somewhat confused, says MP

Friday morning saw the second reading of the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill – the latest incarnation of the Saatchi Bill – take place in the House of Commons.

Now, the list of those opposing the latest rehash of the Saatchi theme includes the Medical Royal Colleges, the BMA, the Association of Medical Research Charities and its constituent members such as Cancer Research UK, and many more. This was pointed out clearly and indefatigably. 

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con): As with any book, we should not judge a Bill by its cover. All Members want to improve access to innovative medical treatments, but I sincerely believe that the Bill is not the right way forward. My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) referred to a number of organisations, implying that they are in favour of the Bill, but he knows that the overwhelming majority of research and charitable organisations are ranged against it. It is opposed by the Association of Medical Research Charities, whose membership reads like an “A to Z” of expertise, including bodies such as Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust—the list is very long, so I will not detain the House by reading it out. The Academy of Medical Sciences opposes the Bill, as does the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, including all those he quoted in his speech.

The General Medical Council, the British Medical Association and the Patients Association oppose the Bill, and I direct my hon. Friend to their article in The Guardian. Action against Medical Accidents, and even the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, oppose the Bill because of its unintended consequences. Legal experts, including Sir Robert Francis, firmly oppose the Bill. All those organisations oppose the Bill because it is unnecessary, it is unworkable, it would unravel important patient protections and, most importantly, it would have unintended and dangerous consequences for research.

I pay tribute to all the Bill’s sponsors and absolutely understand that they are motivated by very good intentions. I would love to sit down and work with them on how we genuinely improve access to innovative treatments. I hope they understand that I oppose the Bill because I sincerely believe that it is the wrong way forward.

Both Dr Wollaston and Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Health Heidi Alexander spoke with real and carefully applied insight to explain why there’s such concern about the baseless and ‘irresponsible’ proposals. 

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Unfortunately, with only 51 MPs voting – despite the unwavering censure toward the latest version from expert medical organisations, research and patient safety charities –  it passed its second reading at 32 votes to 19. 

Mr Heaton-Harris  set about spinning support for the premise behind the Bill – despite his quoted organisations having reiterated their “unequivocal opposition” in new briefing notes. 

Dr Wollaston: My hon. Friend has quoted a number of organisations. Does he accept that all those organisations oppose the Bill? He needs to make that explicit to the House. It is not fair to quote the Royal College of Surgeons, for example, without making it clear that it has explicitly opposed this Bill.

This was nothing compared to the great lashings of nonsense brought forth by Philip Davies MP,  who selectively quoted snippets of consultation responses predating April 2014, out of context, defended by announcing “I am perfectly happy for people to put their own gloss on what others are saying” – when it was pointed out that others aren’t even saying anything like that, Davies continued to derail proceedings, talk in circles, and throw in half sentences, historic quotations, and confabulatory haze for over an hour.

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Seems he was at his filibustering best – most likely because of the next slot.

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The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill was an inconvenience to him that he succeeded in talking out.

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Next up David Nuttall MP who managed to speak for many minutes without pausing to let in fact, and George Freeman MP- setting out the government’s position- conflating, again,the Early Access to Medicines Scheme with the Saatchi monster, and fudging plentifully.  Both denied that it would affect the law of negligence; so too did Chris Heaton-Harris MP. This was very interesting, seeing as its operative effect is to change the law of negligence.

Nuttall demonstrated how the Saatchi defence to negligent decisions operates:

‘I have to admit at the outset that an impressive array of bodies have lined up either in outright opposition to the Bill or with at least some reservations about it. When I was considering the evidence, I had to take that into account. I had to decide whether in the light of that evidence I should simply go with the flow and decide that if all those people said that it is a bad thing, it must be a bad thing, or whether I should think about the other side of the coin. I did that, and on balance, I came down on the side of what I like to think of as my constituents’ view. I believe that the Bill has the potential to improve the lives of my constituents if they are struck down by a rare disease that means that they require innovative medical treatment.’

Both Nuttall and Freeman mentioned litigation costs – but omitted that the known figure for litigation relating to innovation is … £0.

Dr Wollaston: How much of the litigation cost is related to complaints about innovative treatments?

George Freeman: Most of the cases are a result of other contexts – as my hon. Friend will know, obstetrics is a big part of that – rather than innovation. I am happy to write to her with the actual figure as I do not have it to hand…

All other pertinent questions were similarly obfuscated around.

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Staggeringly the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill edition of the Saatchi Bill was voted through to committee stage in the House of Commons, and while claiming it’s been ‘handed over’ to Heaton-Harris, Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill remains in the House of Lords- alongside his motion to suspend SO46. 

HA.

Professor José Miola on the nonsense: ‘It’s like déjà vu all over again…’

What can be done?  Despair, despair some more – then contact your MP  ‘Call to action!’

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In a fascinating display of parliamentary quick change tango, Lord Saatchi’s creation has hotfooted not only back to the Lords to be read a second time in July (with the hopes of subverting usual procedure and fast-tracking straight to the lower house for its completion- with a time limit of one year from its reappearance) but, according to the Bill’s website, it is now replicated in the PMB proposed by MP Chris Heaton-Harris in the Commons.

Of course, if this is the case then it’s gone from a, relatively, restrained misrepresenting of benefit by using the word ‘innovation’ rather than ‘experimentation’; to a wholesale misrepresentation of content. The original never contained anything that would have enabled access to treatment,at all, despite the heavy lines spun to encourage loud, urgent, understandable, support.  One suspects Lord Saatchi’s new bill will be the same when it suits him to dupe supporters into believing it’s had the ok-go from the Lords; and will be an entirely new and fresh venture when the hideous problems and wall of opposition, from doctors’ representatives, patient charities, research groups and patient safety experts, to the original attempts are pointed out.    Nobody’s quite sure whether the Bill site has told the truth or not because the Bill probably hasn’t been written yet, despite having its first reading yesterday. Nor can anyone know how many willing helpers put their names in for the PMB ballot to run it for Saatchi; brownie points all round, right?
And what dazzling speed – Britain’s got talent for something, anyway, just apparently not appropriate, considered, transparent health policy or legislative drafting.
From the website:
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With a typically overt disregard for quality of life or respect for human worth, the mass guinea pig market was announced in the Telegraph as well, will they be this Bill’s media partner too?
On the plus side, Tredinnick’s cleared off temporarily for his gig at Glastonbury.

The Saatchi Bill public debate – HealthWatch & KCL

The HealthWatch debate at King’s College London

The debate took place 4 March at KCL with Professor Sir Michael Rawlins and Daniel Greenberg proposing the motion ‘this house supports The Medical Innovation Bill’  with Nick Ross and Nigel Poole QC against.

Here’s the full debate:   HealthWatch Debate – Medical Innovation Bill

and a rather spiffing live-blog account of it at nhsshakeup.co.uk

 

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As a means to an end?

The Medical Innovation Bill (v… wait, which is it on now? do they even know what it says? ) having passed through the Lords despite vocal disagreements from some peers, was due for its second reading in the Commons on Friday 27 February. It was unlikely to be debated due to the length of the list, however it would have been voted on in order to proceed to committee stage and third reading. On Thursday, after a week of letters and articles highlighting the Bill’s unworkability and failings, as well as confirmation from a number of MPs that they would be present and intending to oppose, it was announced by the Bill team that it had been moved (by them) to the following Friday, 6 March.

On Saturday night (28 Feb) the Bill’s media partner-the Telegraph- published 2 articles covering the story that the Bill had been ‘killed’ as a result of Liberal Democrat opposition. The Lib Dems have not done a lot of legislative good in government. In fact they’ve let through some gross atrocities of law. Perhaps they are starting to see the light?

An article featuring Norman Lamb, the party’s health spokesman confirmed that the Liberal Democrats believe that the most appropriate approach to the issue is not to rush this far-reaching legislation, which operates to remove patients’ rights to legal redress, but ‘to examine what the barriers to innovation really are and how best to overcome them’. ‘It should be given priority but we must get it right’.

The leading article featuring Lord Saatchi, entitled ‘Fury as Lib Dems kill off Saatchi Bill’ was rather less moderate. Penned by the Telegraph’s Chief Political Correspondent  Christopher Hope  [promoted following the principled departure of Peter Oborne] it includes aggrieved snippets from Lord Saatchi and Mr Nutt, and makes and frames a number of factually inaccurate statements about the Bill.

It erroneously refers to the Bill as a ‘law to allow doctors to test new drugs on seriously ill patients without the fear of being sued’ which would have ‘allowed doctors to test cutting edge new treatments on patients to help find cures for cancer and other serious illnesses’ and in which ‘new safeguards were introduced last year.’

It states that the Bill has been pulled.  ‘It was due to be debated by MPs on Friday in a race to ensure it was put onto the statute books by the end of next month, when MPs break for the election campaign. However it was pulled at the 11th hour.’    Lord Saatchi is then quoted, saying that Nick Clegg has handed down a death sentence to cancer patients.

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Meanwhile in the realm of Twitter the Saatchi team were in full swing, declaring that yes the Bill is dead, and yes it is the Lib Dems’ fault.  Their supporters, who in good faith believe the Bill would help them access treatment or cure disease, were shocked and understandably very upset.

The emotive pleas, the anguish and the anger were deafening. The deep visceral pain from the hit palpable through less than 140 characters on a screen. All the while team Saatchi (having blocked all those known to disagree with the Bill, including those who have never engaged with them, never followed them), were stoking the flames.  The following day saw more carefully planned articles such as ‘Nick Clegg is spineless says father whose son is dying of terminal illness’ There were tweets of fury and increasingly offensive content, including declarations that people would like to know what will happen when Nick Clegg’s children had cancer.  The media front went into full swing with interviews demanding time for a debate, tweets and articles about the Lib Dems and the blood on their hands.

Andy Burnham then waded in and spoke to the Telegraph to say the Liberal Democrat decision was ‘odd and wrong’ as the Bill ‘was heavily amended and extra safeguards put in’  and offered hope to desperate parents of seriously ill or dying children “For parents like them nothing is available and they have no hope, it [the Bill] is about opening up hope.”     (incidentally, searching ‘Andy Burnham odd wrong’ on google yields 134,000 results)

Labour MP Margaret Hodge also said things and David Cameron’s spokesman spoke a bit too.

“The Prime Minister has expressed his support for this – there were changes that were made during its passage through the Lords, with regard to safeguards.
He has argued for it to go ahead and those who have come to it differently will have to explain their position.”

Labour supporters opportunistically piled in in various ways,  including an encounter with a Labour chap who appeared to compare the false premise i.e. lack of existence of the reasons for the Bill with the existence of Stephen Lawrence as his argument, before then championing it on the basis that Lord Saatchi has an ’emotional connection with his wife who died a painful death because of restrictions on drugs’. Right.

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Meanwhile team Saatchi were clear.

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They never withdrew the Bill and had carefully timed the media coverage around the announcement.  As the Bill was still alive it was wrong to say it was dead, ergo Clegg was responsible for the deaths of patients.   They chose targeted language to create mass outpouring of genuine distress from their supporters. They knew this would mobilise political forces.

This has been pointed out by a patient safety and justice charity among others.

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Burnham has obviously failed to read the Bill or the remarks of anyone in opposition to it. ‘#Politicsbeforelives’ Mr Burnham?  Cheap’n’easy votes for curing cancer?  Either Andy’s strings have been pulled by Saatchi as well, he couldn’t even be bothered to read it, or he’s doubly incompetent to fail to understand science, medicine, false hope, anecdotal propagation of nothingness, the fact ill children should have quality of life prioritised over irresponsible experimentation,  the real dilemmas parents feel who simply will and often must try everything,  and the issues that could have been addressed in the past few years to see how they could actually be helped, not harmed.  The Liberal Democrats certainly seem to have understood what Burnham has not.

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So Nick Clegg hasn’t killed anyone, that we know of.  He hasn’t even killed the Bill off yet. Indeed rather than it being ‘pulled’ at all as in the Telegraph’s leader it remained and remains listed for its second reading.   The deal was struck with Lord Saatchi, whose M&C Saatchi firm has just produced the Conservative election campaign ads.  That deal was – for the Bill to be given additional time in the Commons in the race to wrap it up before the end of the month: the reason that they switched it from the 27th when they knew MPs could and would be there to object summarily. Of course, a Private Members Bill completing its tumble through the Lords and entering the Commons has no priority whatsoever over any other Bill, private, public, any.  It’s also clear that Lord Saatchi’s advisors failed to remind him it was a Coalition government.

What followed when he was denied his special velvet gloves VIP treatment was no more than an almighty, vindictive and increasingly disturbing temper tantrum.

He announced the  Bill’s demise inaccurately along with the press and in doing so maximised the column inches, the interest but also the devastation expressed among his supporters. Who cannot support hope, after all? Telling them that it was dead, killed;  they knew the outpourings of genuine distress would put pressure on decisions in parliament and try to force time to be allocated.

While it is highly improbable it would get through –  and deeply wrong that legislation of this nature would be rushed through in the face of unending opposition from doctors’ organisations, academics, patients and charities,  it’s still listed for tomorrow just as it always was, without the secret special deals, and an MP therefore still needs to shout “object”.  Meanwhile  a petition has been launched and the Bill’s website is backing it.

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Lord Saatchi sure is talented;  he can sell anything.

When Harry met Saatchi

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Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill is bizarre and surreal  but it’s no cartoon. It’s dangerous. The only thing light about it is the complete absence of scientific or legal understanding. Throughout the lengthy campaign Lord Saatchi has sought to suggest that his Bill will indeed cure or enable others to cure cancer. He has stated outright that the current law is the reason there is no cure for cancer. He published the startling ‘How Can an Act of Parliament Cure Cancer?’ as a guide to his plan and ensured it was disseminated on cancer treatment forums. More surreal than Jon Snow on skunk

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Despite the propaganda Saatchi’s proposals would not cure cancer, nor offer any other benefit to doctors or their patients.

He has criticised doctors repeatedly for their “complacency” about it all. He has criticised oncologists writing in The Lancet, The Times and any other place they have disagreed with him. Such as the formal consultation. To which an overwhelming number of medical bodies, representative organisations and experts responded with a clear and resounding NO. These include the BMA, RCP, AoMRC, the MDU, MPS, GMC, RCSEd, RCS, RCPath, RCPsych, RCR, RCGP – the list goes on, and accounts for hundreds of thousands of doctors represented. It includes experts such as Sir Robert Francis QC, Chair of the Mid Staffordshire Inquiries – speaking for patient safety.

Lord Saatchi reminded us that perception is reality – if the people perceive a problem there is one. Well, the perception of doctors and their representative organisations is that doctors and patients have no need for his Bill.    The perception of Wales – which convened a committee that concluded the Bill was unnecessary and dangerous, and which then voted unanimously in the National Assembly on a cross-party basis against the matter is that doctors, and patients, have no need for his Bill.

But this has not been listened to. Indeed it has been met with complacency. Complacent disregard to the concerns raised and to what actually would help improve patient care or facilitate good innovation. Which seems a terrible shame for patients – particularly a few of ardent supporters who have spent probably 2 years of precious, currently limited, time on this project. They have thrown every ounce of passion and effort into fighting for this, for their child’s life. They have done this because they have been assured the Bill will help them.  The evidence for this assurance is and always was entirely absent. The evidence against is overwhelming. This is more than a bit troubling.    Saatchi’s view on doctors, the people who devote their lives to treating patients and those researching diseases such as cancer, and how they’re getting on,  is also more than a bit troubling. 


“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”

‘It sounds medieval—barbaric even—does it not? Death by hanging, by firing squad, by electric chair—no human being has ever devised a more brutal execution than death by cancer… those condemned…suffer a worse fate than the mass murderer. While they await execution, they are tortured.’

– House of Lords 27 June 2014


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complacAs Panorama showcased recently  technologies in cancer care are improving all the time, as are results.  While quackery and poor practice do exist, the Bill actually only benefits this concerning crew, and by happenstance maybe some other interests. The vast, vast majority of doctors are dedicated, extraordinary professionals who really do devote their lives to their profession, to their patients. To suggest otherwise is deeply insulting.    Worse, it’s deeply misleading – arguably hinting to a very real lack of ability to understand what would possibly drive anyone other than self interest.

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He has spoken with the same moral viewpoint on lawyers, too, using some pretty nasty tactics against one particular firm (a firm which specialises in human rights, assisting victims of abuse, victims of torture, those harmed in serious accidents and devastated by truly negligent clinical practice and events – as well as helping advocate for those who have been seriously harmed by drugs or other technologies, improving safety for others, helping challenge treatment decisions and gain access to treatment for patients). His remarks about them are disgraceful and revealing of a deep-seated inability to understand why people work for good, not only for self interest.  Lord Blencathra, supporting Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill on Radio 4 – 21 October 2014- went so far as to state that the country would be a much better place if lawyers were euthanised.

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Where does he get these views from?  About doctors and lawyers and scientists dedicated to finding new treatments and making them a reality for patients? Where does he draw the view that doctors fail to treat patients with the most appropriate treatments because they like the easy life for themselves? Because they fear for their livelihoods? the livelihood, the drive for most doctors is patient care.  His view is that doctors care not one jot about their patients, do not act in their best interests and deliberately cause harm, then ‘torture’ them to death.
Where has he got his perversely wrong interpretation of the law? From where has he drawn the opinion that doctors don’t provide treatment in the best interests of the patient due to their fear of litigation?

It’s outrageous and wrong. He hasn’t got these ideas from any organisation that would know- the Medical Defence Union, Medical Protection Society, NHSLA,  British Medical Association, APIL and others have all drawn blanks on even one case and have all been clearly and firmly opposed.  He certainly hasn’t had any of his ideas confirmed in the consultation responses either.

He has ignored and insulted the medical profession and continues to do so.  He has ignored the responses to his own consultation. He has ignored patient safety experts, patients, charities, academics and more. Lord Saatchi, as a peer in the House of Lords, albeit unelected, has a public responsibility. He holds a position of trust to both the public and to Parliament. He has stood in the House of Lords and erroneously stated the law. He has stood and compared doctors to medieval torturers, driven by unrelenting self-interest.  He has stood up in the Lords and gained the trust of some members of the public; who he has used, unrelentingly, as media spokespeople – their tragic circumstance as his emotive hook to further his own interests.  It’s just appalling.

 

But, perhaps I’ve been too hard on Lord Saatchi. Perhaps he was advised badly by someone he trusted. Like the public believing his position of authority and access to accurate law, perhaps he has fallen for a similar fate, dressed as a reliable trustworthy authority.

Lord Harry Woolf is perhaps most famous for his extensive civil reforms that were designed to drive down incidence and costs of litigation. While access to justice is very much down, costs of litigation overall have risen.  Woolf, a crossbench life peer, once a member of the Conservatives,  Master of the Rolls from 1996 to 2000 and Lord Chief Justice from then until 2005 – although not a medical lawyer, is an impressive fellow with legal experience and such eminence whose views must have been unquestionably reassuring for Lord Saatchi.  He trusted him.

So too have other non-legally-qualified individuals trusted him.

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Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, writing in the BMJ in support of Lord Saatchi’s Bill, stated, citing Bolam as his anti-innovation example, that

‘Several legal authorities have pointed out that departing from what is regarded as “established practice” or “the standard of care” leaves a doctor open to legal action for negligence’. 

In the comments section, he backs up his case, citing what he deems an irrefutable authority.

…Lord Woolf – the former Master of the Rolls and Lord Chief Justice – has an article published in today’s (24th April) Daily Telegraph explaining his reasons for supporting the Saatchi Bill. As my learned friends would say, “I rest my case”.

Michael Rawlins

He then responds to the comments in a Letter – BMJ 2014;348:g3152 –  citing his firm belief that he has got it right, as Lord Woolf said so.

‘The current law is clearly confusing even to lawyers. Poole QC and Conway, as well as Bewley, claim that the bill is unnecessary, and that the existing state of affairs allows for “responsible innovation” along the lines of the Saatchi bill.  Lord Woolf—a former master of the rolls and a former lord chief justice—disagrees. In an article published on 24 April 2014, he stated: “what I do know about, from sitting as a judge, are the cases where doctors are sued for negligence because they have innovated in the treatment they offer, rather than following generally-accepted medical standards.” The Saatchi bill will bring much needed clarity to an area of law that even the most eminent lawyers disagree about.’

 

So how can you tell when it’s .. ?

Unfortunately, Lord Woolf has not been able to substantiate his suggestion that doctors have been sued and are sued for innovative treatment  and are therefore so afraid of being sued for providing treatment in the patient’s best interests that, to paraphrase Lord Saatchi, they torture their patients to death, and this is why there is no cure for cancer, and this is why the current law requires a radical wrecking ball.

In fact, his authority for this does not exist. It does not exist even in the haziest recesses of recall.  It does not exist in his book. It does not exist in case reports. It does not exist in the records of the Medical Defence Union, or the Medical Protection Society, or the Royal Colleges or the BMA or the NHS Litigation Authority.

He wrote up his support for the Bill in an opus for the Telegraph, ‘Saatchi Bill: your last chance to help’, imploring readers to respond positively to the consultation.

‘My own reasons for giving my support to his plans – currently the subject of a Department of Health consultation that ends tomorrow – arise from my work as a lawyer. I have not, thankfully, had to face a similar domestic tragedy to his, but what I do know about, from sitting as a judge, are the cases where doctors are sued for negligence because they have innovated in the treatment they offer, rather than following generally-accepted medical standards.

In my experience, professional people are, on the whole, very conservative, and it is cases such as the ones I mention that make doctors frightened to try something different, something not yet fully tested, even when their patients give their consent, and when, as was the case with Josephine Hart and many others, they face certain death if standard procedure is all that is on offer.

Doctors don’t by nature want to step out of line, risk their professional reputation, or being labelled a quack by colleagues. That is, most of the time, a good thing. There should not be a culture in our hospitals of risk-taking with patients’ lives. But what is covered in these plans is a very specific set of exceptional circumstances, where there are potential benefits to allowing doctors to put their heads above the parapet.

…It shouldn’t require too much imagination to envisage those that these proposals might help. If you are a patient suffering with a terrible cancer, where conventional treatment has proved ineffective, your doctor may be aware of something else that could be of benefit, but which has not yet gone through the currently very long process of being fully tried and tested. It can take 15 years and £1 billion to approve just one drug. By the time that has been done, the patient will be dead.

At the moment, the doctor’s hands are tied – by concerns about professional reputation and potential negligence claims. That needs to change.

..Maurice Saatchi’s proposal is about is extending and saving life.’

 

When asked his authorities in a letter sent to parliament he replied in email correspondence:

 ‘In the time available, I cannot find references to the cases I had in mind when I wrote the article for “The Telegraph”.  I am afraid that it is most unlikely that I will be able to do so even if I had more time but I apologise and have to ask you to accept my recollection, which is of cases I was involved in very many years ago.

 My general position remains, however, what is needed is protection available before the event and not a defence, the existence of which can only be determined after a doctor is accused of departing from proper standards of practice.

 Yours ever,

 Harry Woolf’

Upon reading a piece about this very lack of an authority in Solicitors Journal he sent another email.

‘A person I assume who is known to you followed up what I wrote to you with what regarded as an unpleasant threatening  request and I am not prepared to be cross examined further I can only say that I am disappointed that your interest in forensic matters does not make you willing to accept that having been appointed a judge in 1979 and having tried many cases depending on medical evidence that I doubt were ever reported it is now impossible for me to give you the information you seek and so if you do not accept my word that is your problem not mine. 

 Sent from my iPad  

Harry Woolf ‘

woolf

He has dismissed all calls for evidence so incredulously that you know you wouldn’t want to be sat next to him dictating his response.  But while everyone everywhere has drawn a blank, and requests for his authorities have been met with this ‘unrepentant’ wall,  his words have been used with flourish by team Saatchi and the patients, families and other supporters drawn in by his authority on the issue. Including medical experts such as Professor Sir Rawlins.   rawl It’s concerning indeed if a meeting of Harry Woolf and Saatchi resulted in the unfortunate creation of the Medical Innovation Bill, and in drawing in supporters who had absolutely no way of telling that the premise wasn’t the real thing.

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