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Controversial Saatchi Bill Passes In Lords
The Medical Innovation Bill that proposes to give extra legal protection to doctors in England and Wales who try experimental treatments was passed by the House of Lords in January.
The Bill was conceived by Lord Saatchi following the death of his wife Josephine Hart to ovarian cancer. Lord Saatchi says that current treatments are “medieval, degrading and ineffective” and that doctors are prevented from deviating from standard care for fear of being sued.
Lord Saatchi and his supporters say the Bill will encourage doctors to innovate and bring benefits to those patients where standard treatments have been exhausted.
Despite being backed by the government and being passed by the House of Lords, the Bill has met widespread opposition from doctors, researchers and charities.
Critics have labelled the Bill as “ill conceived”, “unnecessary” and a “threat to the patient doctor relationship”.
In November 2014 more than 100 medical professionals signed a letter to The Times saying that the existing law did not inhibit innovation and that the proposed new legislation could have the unintended consequence of weakening the evidence base for research by leading to an accumulation of merely anecdotal evidence..
Opponents argue that the law already provides for experimental treatments to be used if there is a compelling need, such as in the case of the British Ebola patient William Pooley, who was treated with the untested drug ZMapp last year.
One leading critic, Dr Wollaston MP, the chair of the Health Select Committee, has described it as a “quack’s charter” and warned “We know what treatments work and what treatments don’t as a result of clinical trials, not as a result of anecdotal treatments”.
The Medical Innovation Bill was passed by the House of Lords last month and sent to the House of Commons. However, there are serious doubts that it will have time to complete all its stages and become law before parliament rises at the end of March for the general election.
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