Does the proposed Medical Innovation Bill allow medics to innovate without fear? Does innovation not already exist?
On the 25th April 2014 the Government’s consultation on the Medical Innovation Bill closed. The Bill was supported by Lord Saatchi who lost his wife to cancer and is attempting in the words of the Department of Health to “ allow doctors to innovate where there is no body of medical opinion to support the innovation or where it is not clear where it exists. The proposed safeguards suggest doctors should have reasons for the innovation and the bill would introduce a statutory best practice checklist, as a safeguard against irresponsible innovation” Currently, there must be a reasonable body of medical opinion to support the innovation, to protect patients.
But doesn’t “safe” innovation and medical development already exist?
On the 26th April the Daily Mail, published an article titled “ Surgeons finally win battle of wounded knee. Revolutionary new operation to repair joint uses ligament no one knew existed until 6 months ago” This new procedure, designed to assist in the repair of one of the most common types of knee injury in the UK ( some 50,000 a year), allows for a two-in-one operation to help repair the knee. The surgery is only one procedure instead of two and allows quicker recovery, whilst using a part of the knee unidentified until last year. Innovation!!
So why the need for a new act of parliament?
Announcing the bill on the 22nd November 2013, Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health said:
“medical innovation has been vital to the dramatic rise in life expectancy of the last century. This country has a proud heritage of innovation, from Alexander Fleming to Sir Peter Mansfield and MRI”.. “ The Govt should do whatever is needed to remove barriers that prevents innovation, which can save and improve lives.”…. “ The hope is that legislation to clarify when medical innovation is responsible will reduce risk of clinincal negligence claims. “
No one would argue that saving lives is an important issue, but why would the threat of a clinical negligence claim stop that? Safeguards are already in place for any new treatment. Patients are given clear and independent advice on what they are being exposed too.
It is important for all that data is collected and a clear and accurate picture of the medical treatment is built up and the current system allows for responsible innovation.
Deborah Evans, APIL’s CEO stated
“ The key will be how they define innovation. With any policy change comes unintended consequences. Could legislation create more bureaucracy? Would doctors feel compelled to innovate….worse still, it could give the power to patients to press for treatment that they have heard about on the internet, even if no science exists to support it. A terminally ill patient may jump at any offer”.
Innovation within a safe framework, featuring patient best interests must always be supported and encouraged, whether legislation achieves that, remains to be seen.