28 Oct, 14 | by Iain Brassington
NB – Update/ erratum here. Ooops.
One of the things I’ve been doing since I last posted here has involved me looking at the Medical Innovation Bill – the so-called “Saatchi Bill”, after its titular sponsor. Partly, I got interested out of necessity – Radio 4 invited me to go on to the Sunday programme to talk about it, and so I had to do some reading up pretty quickly. (It wasn’t a classic performance, I admit; I wasn’t on top form, and it was live. Noone swore, and noone died, but that’s about the best that can be said.)
It’s easy to see the appeal of the Bill: drugs can take ages to come to market, and off-label use can take a hell of a long time to get approval, and all the rest of it – and all the while, people are suffering and/ or dying. It’s reasonable enough to want to do something to ameliorate the situation; and if there’s anecdotal evidence that something might work, or if a medic has a brainwave suggesting that drug D might prove useful for condition C – well, given all that, it’s perfectly understandable why we might want the law to provide some protection to said medic. The sum of human knowledge will grow, people will get better, and it’s raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens all the way; the Government seems satisfied that all’s well. Accordingly, the Bill sets out to “encourage responsible innovation in medical treatment (and accordingly to deter innovation which is not responsible)” – that’s from §1(1) – and it’s main point is, according to §1(2), to ensure that
It is not negligent for a doctor to depart from the existing range of accepted medical treatments for a condition, in the circumstances set out in subsection (3), if the decision to do so is taken responsibly.
Accordingly, §1(3) outlines that
[t]hose circumstances are where, in the doctor’s opinion—
(a) it is unclear whether the medical treatment that the doctor proposes to carry out has or would have the support of a responsible body of medical opinion, or
(b) the proposed treatment does not or would not have such support.
So far so good. Time to break out the bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens*, then? Not so fast. more…