Protection for vulnerable patients will be eroded by the Medical Innovation Bill say lawyers, ahead of the Bill’s first debate in the House of Lords today (Friday).
“This Bill allows a doctor to ‘play God’ with no consequences,” said Jonathan Wheeler,vice-president of national not-for-profit campaign group the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).
The Private Members’ Bill, introduced by Lord Saatchi, would only require doctors to ‘consult’colleagues about an innovative treatment. There is no obligation to gain the consent of those colleagues before going ahead.
“The work and conduct of most doctors is, of course, exemplary and beyond reproach, but some medics are perhaps naturally keen to be the one to break new ground. Vulnerable patients will have no protection from the few ambitious, maverick, innovators with no-one to answer to,” explained Mr Wheeler.
“Dying people and people with long-term illnesses are more likely to be open to any treatments which could potentially help them, but protection from harm and the accountability of the doctor must remain in place”.
Mr Wheeler said the campaign supporting the Bill is misleading in its claims that doctors are too afraid of litigation to try new or innovative treatments on patients.
“Doctors are constantly innovating anyway, so the Bill’s aim is based on a false premise,”he said. “Not a week seems to go by without reports of improvements in quality of life, or even a life saved, because of a pioneering new drug or technique.This is done, though, with well-established systems in place to secure the safety of patients,” he said.
He added: “There is no evidence to show that anyone has sued because of innovation.
“If doctors are afraid to try new approaches or are confused about what is expected of them then education, not legislation, is the answer.”
He went on: “At best the Medical Innovation Bill is a waste of parliamentary time. At worst, this well-meaning but completely misguided campaign could have tragic consequences”.