A draft Bill designed to give doctors the freedom to practise innovative medicine on patients is both dangerous and unnecessary, said lawyers in response to a Government consultation which closes today.
The Medical Innovation Bill, devised by Lord Saatchi, aims to save lives by removing a perceived fear of litigation from doctors who wish to use innovative techniques. But the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) says the unintended consequence of the Bill would be the erosion of patient safety.
“While this Bill is clearly well-intended, it is actually based on myth and misconception,” said APIL president Matthew Stockwell. “Doctors already have the freedom to use innovative techniques – only last month, it was reported that a survivor of a motorbike accident had received pioneering surgery to reconstruct his face.
“The fact is that the current system allows such innovation to take place while providing safeguards for patients, something which this Bill fails to do.
“Current law expects a doctor to act in a way which would be supported by a responsible body of medical opinion,” Mr Stockwell explained. “This is critical because seriously ill and dying patients are particularly vulnerable.
“It is extremely important that patients are able to discuss treatment with their doctors while being protected by the robust but flexible checks and balances which are currently in place.”
In its response to the Department of Health consultation,the association argues there is no evidence to support the idea that litigation has increased as a result of innovative medicine.
“The individual needs of patients must come first,” said Mr Stockwell. “If there is a culture of fear among doctors that innovation could lead to litigation, it should be dealt with through education, not legislation.”
“And a change of culture should also include addressing other genuine problems which are preventing innovation, such as a lack of funding and resources for medical research.”