Dying with dignity : Does the new Medical Innovation Bill challenge this?

Peers in the House of Lords were given the first chance to debate Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation bill.

The proposals are pioneered by Lord Saatchi, who tragically lost his wife to cancer.

The bill, should it become law, will allow doctors to try new treatments or drugs on patients, when all else has failed and has been partially driven by the rising rates of cancer death each year.

Despite fierce objections from doctors, lawyers and patient safety groups, (APIL and AvMA) the bill is gathering momentum.

Some doctors have commented that the Bill … “will protect the patient and nurture the innovator. It will encourage safe medical advancement, while at the same time deterring the maverick, thereby recalibrating the culture of defensive medicine…  it will work with evidence-based medicine and provide new data that will inspire and support new research.”

Patients will also be able to look up these medicines on a new database run by Oxford University and ask their doctors for the same treatment.

During the debate in the House of Lords, Lord Colwyn told peers that he didn’t believe the Bill was necessary and that any support for doctors to innovate “should be achieved through professional guidance, not rigid statute”, while Lord Winston spoke of his “increasing misgivings” about the Bill.

Much of the motivation seems to be led by the emotion and tragedy involved in patient cancer deaths, however, the Bill does not just apply to cancer cases.

When it comes to end of life decisions, a patient or their family, will often try anything to prolong life. Families and patients look to their medical teams to safeguard against recklessness in these fraught situations.

Dying with dignity and with careful palliative care is an acknowledged  responsibility for all professionals and  a balance between innovation and un-necessary or intrusive treatment, has to be found.