Conservative peer Lord Saatchi has introduced a bill that would exempt doctors from being held liable for clinical negligence if they ‘innovate’ during cancer treatment.
Saatchi (pictured) brought forward the Medical Innovation Bill after his wife, the writer Josephine Hart, died from peritoneal cancer in June 2011.
The advertising pioneer said a fear of litigation for medical negligence is blocking improvements in treatments.
His bill, which was introduced in the House of Lords, aims to codify into law what constitutes best practice and widen the definition of ‘standard procedure’ to include more innovative care.
‘The law as it stands does not strike a proper balance between reckless experimentation on the one hand, which puts patients’ lives at risk, and complacent apathy which treads the well-worn path on which no liability can arise,’ said Lord Saatchi in the bill papers.
‘The defect of the present law becomes more and more apparent as the speed of technological change accelerates. It destroys inducements to progress. It encourages apathy. It discourages innovation.’
Under the present law, Saatchi said any doctor accused of negligence has a cast-iron defence in law, if it can be shown they did not deviate from the standard procedure – defined as the practice which would be followed by a group of medical practitioners skilled in the particular area of medicine.
Deviation from accepted practice is likely to result in a finding of negligence if the practitioner cannot establish a reason for adopting the treatment he did.
Saatchi said the government’s efforts to alter the medical climate towards innovation cannot work until legislation has changed the culture of caring for cancer patients.