Advertising magnate Lord Saatchi will today outline how he intends to protect doctors from negligence claims if they innovate in the treatment of cancer patients.
In a speech to the Royal Society of Medicine, Saatchi will explain how doctors can be encouraged to innovate without being reckless.
Saatchi was moved to introduce his Medical Innovation Bill in the House of Lords after his wife, the novelist Josephine Hart, died of ovarian cancer almost two years ago.
The bill is about to have a second reading in the Lords, and Saatchi is determined to prove that current law, in which any deviation from standard practice is likely to result in a verdict of guilt for medical negligence, is a ‘barrier to progress’ in curing cancer.
In his speech, Saatchi will say: ‘A doctor deciding how to treat a particular case starts with the knowledge that as soon as he or she moves away from existing and established standards within the profession, there is an automatic and serious risk that he or she will be found guilty of negligence if the treatment is less successful than hoped.’
Saatchi will reassure the legal and medical profession that his bill will not mean patients are ‘treated like mice’ in the pursuit of scientific advances.
Instead, he will argue that for the first time the bill will give statutory expression to the definition of ‘proper practice’ and carefully define the process for taking decisions to innovate.
Approval to innovate will be granted only by a majority verdict from a panel of senior doctors, and patients will have to be told if there was any disagreement from clinicians.
Saatchi says that a doctor who innovates irresponsibly without having gone through ‘careful and structured’ consideration of all criteria will be more easily exposed as negligent. Those who follow all the correct procedures will have statutory support in justifying the decision to insurers, the General Medical Council and the courts.
The bill could be debated in the House of Lords before the summer recess and will then pass to the House of Commons for consideration.