Tory peer and advertising magnate Lord Saatchi has proposed a Medical Innovation Bill that he says will free doctors from fear of litigation for pioneering new treatments to advance a cure for cancer, reports The Law Gazette.
Lord Saatchi was personally driven to propose the law after the death of his wife, novelist Josephine Hart, who died in 2011 from ovarian carcinoma.
He believes that a fear of medical negligence law is preventing doctors from innovation in the search for a cure for the disease.
As a result of this belief, Lord Saatchi has proposed the Medical Innovation Bill, which is about to receive its second reading in the House of Lords this week. Lord Saatchi will also address the Royal Society of Medicine to explain to doctors how his new law will work in practice.
Lord Saatchi believes that the current law punishes doctors for deviating from standard practices, prohibiting them from innovating for the fear of costly litigation.
He believes his bill will promote progress, by affording doctors the ability to decide when to trial a new therapy by majority verdict. These therapies are defined in the bill as those where there is no evidence base, or where the evidence available is uncertain.
He claims the bill protects patients from being 'mice' by ensuring that they are informed that a treatment is experimental and being notified of any dissenting views among the minority of medical opinion.
Critics argue that the bill is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the law of negligence, which requires doctors to act in accordance with accepted rather than standard practice.
The test for medical negligence is whether the conduct of a medical professional fell below what could reasonably be expected of a competent doctor of the same experience, as assessed by a panel of other doctors.
Lord Saatchi's bill seems set to place an already well-established principle of case law on the statute books, something deemed unnecessary by some but welcomed by others.
The bill is set for a second reading in the House of Lords, before passing to the Commons for debate after the summer recess.
Saatchi promises safeguards in negligence immunity bill (The Law Gazette)