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What is the Medical Innovation Bill and How Will it Help Mesothelioma Patients?

Saatchi Bill

Last week we reported about Mavis Nye’s support of Lord Maurice Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill. Today, we go into detail about the bill and how it can benefit mesothelioma patients living in the UK.

February 24, Lord Maurice Saatchi of the House of Lords hosted a panel of experts in a live, Google Hangout session as he launched the public consultation period of the Medical Innovation Bill. The Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, requested a public consultation period for the bill “that gets the views of patients on the right balance between innovation and safeguards. A consultation that hears from clinicians on the problems they face in innovating and how to overcome them.”

Secretary Hunt is an advocate of the bill, and has said publicly that he supports the Bill and that he will make it law if the public and medical professionals demand it.

Expert Insight

Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt

“We must create a climate where clinical pioneers have the freedom to make breakthroughs in treatment.”

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“The hangout was hugely successful,” Lord Saatchi’s spokesperson, Liz Scarff, wrote in an email to MesotheliomaHelp of the Feb. 24 launch event. “It enabled us to extend the launch beyond the walls of Parliament directly to the public.”

Hoping to build on the momentum of the launch event, Lord Saatchi and proponents of the bill are in the midst of a public outreach campaign encouraging the public, medical professionals and patients to comment on and support the bill.

“Secretary Hunt needs to understand that the Saatchi Bill is something that the public, patients and also clinicians want,” added Ms. Scarff. “To this end, we need as many people as possible to respond to the consultation.”

What Is the Saatchi Bill?

Lord Saatchi penned the bill, also known as the Saatchi Bill, after his wife of 27 years died from ovarian cancer in 2011. Lord Saatchi watched as her health declined and doctors followed “standard procedure” for her care. “The treatment was degrading, medieval and ineffective, and they knew it would lead to her death,” Lord Saatchi wrote in a guest article in the Telegraph.

Doctors in Great Britain primarily only offer treatments that have been approved for their patients’ particular condition and that are part of standard procedure. For mesothelioma survivors, such as Mavis Nye, who have been told there are no more treatment options, it means that there are no more treatments approved for mesothelioma. Potentially, though, there is another drug that is effective on another type of cancer or disease that could benefit her. However, doctors will not present another option for fear of a medical negligence lawsuit. So they either try the same things that were not effective in the first place, or they do nothing.

“The risk of doing nothing is not nothing. The risk of doing nothing is fatal – fatal every single time,” said Alex Smith, CEO of Harrison’s Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy of which his son suffers, who spoke during the February 24 launch of the need to pass the Saatchi Bill. “The time is now; we don’t have time to waste.”

Lord Saatchi hopes that by offering medical professionals protection from the law, if they follow the protocol of the new bill, doctors will have the confidence and drive to be innovative and try other treatments on their patients who are out of options.

Expert Insight

Lord Maurice Saatchi

“We need to say loudly and clearly we want to try new treatments for cancer where the old ones are known to lead only to death.”

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“It [the Bill] will allow good doctors who have the best interests of their patients at heart to deviate away from standard procedures and innovate, safely and with the protection of the law – as long as what they plan to do follows a clear set of actions,” as explained on Tumblr.

“We need a better balance between defensive medicine and innovation,” said Lord Saatchi during the launch event. “This bill shifts the balance towards innovation.”

Benefit for Mesothelioma Patients

Many doctors have stepped up and offer their support of the bill. Dr. Robert Lefever, addiction specialist who blogs for the Daily Mail, is a supporter of the Saatchi Bill. In a recent blog, Lefever says, “The Medical Innovation Bill intends to make it easier to define what is sensible and permissible innovation and, by contrast, what is reckless experimentation.”

Under the new bill, patients can demand innovation by asking: “Have you tried everything?” “Are there any other potential treatments available that you can offer me that are not standard procedure?” This innovation, however, comes with the risk of the unknown. According to the Saatchi Bill experts, “this risk needs to be balanced against the risk of the known – a standard treatment that is unlikely to work.”

“For  mesothelioma patients facing a difficult prognosis, and with no treatment options left, if you want you can ask your doctor to try something new – and you can assure your doctor that the Bill will support him or her in stepping outside standard procedures – as long as the doctor fulfills the procedures set down in the Bill,” said Lord Saatchi. “The Bill will then allow the doctor to try new treatments without the risk of being sued.”

The consultation event runs through April 25. Secretary Jeremy Hunt will support the legislation at the conclusion of the public consultation. Visit the “Take Action” section of the Saatchi Bill on Tumblr or the Medical Innovation Bill comment section via the Department of Health to show your support. Also, follow @SaatchiBill on Twitter or on Facebook for daily updates.

The good news for Mavis Nye who said, “I want the bill now,” is that the Bill will be enacted immediately at the conclusion of the consultation period, (assuming no new clauses are added as it passes through Parliament.)

“Currently, the Bill is enacted as soon as the Queen gives it Royal Assent,” according to Ms. Scarff. “We hope it will stay like that – there is no time to waste.”

Sources:

  • Gov.UK
    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/medical-innovation-doctors-and-patients-encouraged-to-give-views
  • Harrison’s Fund
  • House of Lords Google Hangout
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uxwl0e-DcU
  • Jeremy Hunt’s Written Ministerial Statement
  • Lord Saatchi Bill: We must liberate doctors to innovate
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/saatchi-bill/10598161/Lord-Saatchi-Bill-We-must-liberate-doctors-to-innovate.html
  • The Saatchi Bill
    http://saatchibill.tumblr.com/
  • The Telegraph
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/saatchi-bill/10657747/Lord-Saatchi-launches-the-consultation-on-his-medical-innovation-bill-live.html
  • University of Leicester
    http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/press-releases/2014/february/leicester-expert-on-asbestos-related-cancer-to-speak-at-the-house-of-lords
  • Dr. Robert Lefever
    http://saatchibill.tumblr.com/post/75679150130/fearful-doctors-in-a-war-against-inertia
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Last Modified: January 2, 2019

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