Medical Innovation Bill to be discussed in House of Lords

Cancer Research UK

A new Bill that would allow patients who have exhausted all other options to be given experimental medical treatments is set to be discussed in the House of Lords.

“We must ensure the Bill contains appropriate safeguards to protect patients" - Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK

The Medical Innovation Bill, championed by advertising supremo Lord Saatchi, aims to allow doctors to offer innovative and experimental techniques to patients nearing the end of life who have failed to respond to conventional therapies.

The Bill’s backers say it contains legal protections aimed at allowing doctors to try out untested therapies without the threat of prosecution.

Lord Saatchi has been the driving force behind the proposed changes to the law following the death of his wife, Josephine Hart, from ovarian cancer.

A consultation process showed the broad support for improving innovation in certain areas of medicine, while highlighting concerns with the way the Bill was drafted.

To address this, the Bill has been amended with safeguards aimed at ensuring that doctors in this situation secure the backing of at least one other medical expert, and report their intentions to the General Medical Council.

Sarah Woolnough, Executive Director of Policy and Information at Cancer Research UK, said it was important that Parliament discussed medical innovation.

"We know that more could be done to promote innovation in cancer treatment, especially for patients with life-threatening conditions where there are few treatment options, and the Medical Innovation Bill aims to support clinicians to act innovatively where they have exhausted other options.

“The latest set of amendments laid on the Medical Innovation Bill are an improvement, requiring a doctor to seek advice from an appropriately qualified colleague before departing from standard treatment.

“We must ensure the Bill contains appropriate safeguards to protect patients.

"We will monitor the Bill's progress closely and hope we will see a greater focus on innovation thanks to this Bill."

The Medical Innovation Bill goes to the committee stage in the House of Lords on 24th October 2014.