The Medical Innovation Bill – is there really a need?

The Medical Innovation Bill is due to be debated in the House of Lords this Friday having recently received approval from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Bedford litigation solicitor Hannah Young provides an overview.

According to the Daily Telegraph, its’ supporters say that the bill now has a 75% chance of success after the addition of the ‘safeguard’ of requiring a medical professional to obtain the agreement of another specialist in the relevant field before prescribing unusual or unlicensed drugs.

The intended legislation, which is intended to allow dying patients to receive untested drugs and allow medical professionals to prescribe these without the risk of litigation against them, is of course the idea of Lord Maurice Saatchi following his late wife’s death from ovarian cancer. The problem is that the medical professionals who the bill is designed to protect, appear to dispute its need - Michael Baum, Professor Emeritus of Surgery at University College London, has stated openly: “Never once have we encountered interference or obstruction due to fear of litigation”.

From a legal viewpoint, it is difficult to see how the bill will benefit the medical profession as, particularly given the recent ‘safeguard’ of the requirement of a peer’s supportive opinion, it seems only to support the principles of the Bolam test, which has of course been used to assess the existence of medical negligence since 1957.

For more information, please contact Bedford litigation solicitor, Hannah Young