By: 1 July 2014

A new Private Members' Bill which proposes that doctors need only consult with colleagues about innovative treatments will leave vulnerable patients at risk if passed into law, says the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).


The Medical Innovation Bill, which has been introduced by Lord Saatchi and had its first debate in the House of Lords on 27 June, would mean that there would be no obligation on doctors to gain the consent of colleagues before going ahead with medical procedures.


“This Bill allows a doctor to ‘play God’ with no consequences,” said Jonathan Wheeler, the vice-president of APIL, who described the bill as a waste of Parliamentary time which could have tragic consequences.


“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 Wheeler.


He said that dying people and people with long-term illnesses were more likely to be open to any treatments which could potentially help them, but protection from harm and the accountability of the doctor had to remain in place.


Wheeler added that supporters of the Bill were wrong in their 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.


“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.”