Lord Saatchi’s controversial Medical Innovation Bill has its third reading in the House of Lords this month.

The Bill, devised by Maurice Saatchi after he lost his wife to cancer, aims to stimulate medical innovation by giving patients the chance to try treatments that fall outside of ‘standard practice’.

The Bill has divided opinion, with critics concerned that it will not protect patients from irresponsible treatment.

These potential consequences were recently set out by Nigel Pool QC following the Report Stage in the House of Lords on 12th December 2014.

Using his blog ‘Learned Friend’, Nigel Pool QC draws attention to the ambiguity of the Bill, and suggests the following statements are all true:

1. The Bill applies whether or not a patient has a terminal illness or a degenerative disease

2. The Bill applies whether or not a patient has exhausted all “standard” or conventional treatments

3. The Bill applies to private treatment as well as to treatment within the NHS

4. The Bill does not change the regulation or funding of new treatments

5. If passed, the Bill will enable the ‘Saatchi Defence’ to be used. This means that:

a. A doctor who would be considered negligent under current law would not be considered negligent if the decision to treat was taken ‘responsibly’, was thought to be in the patient’s best interests and lawful consent had been given.

b. People currently entitled to claim compensation for negligent medical care would not be able to do so

6. If a doctor makes out the Saatchi Defence, the court cannot apply the current tests to find that doctor to be negligent

7. To make the Saatchi Defence, the doctor must obtain the views of one or more doctors with experience in dealing with the patient’s condition. However, the other doctor:

a. Does not have to have seen/examined the patient or their records

b. Does not have to agree or support the proposed treatment

c. Does not have to be independent from the treating doctor

d. Does not have to have expertise in the proposed treatment/mode of treatment

8.To make out the Saatchi Defence, the doctor must take account of the views obtained from another doctor. However:

a. The view of the other doctor may be rejected

b. It differs to current law, where the decision to treat would be supported by a responsible and rational body of medical opinion

c. It is a law previously untested in the courts

These are amongst the reasons why many are trying to stop the Bill from being made into legislation.

However, it is not known whether the critics will be successful in attempting to throw out the Bill, as it is still being debated in Parliament.

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