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Saatchi is right to promote medical innovation but his bill is wrong way to do it

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h531 (Published 04 February 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h531
  1. Michael Baum, professor emeritus of surgery and visiting professor of medical humanities, University College London
  1. baum.michael3{at}gmail.com

Medical innovation in the UK is thriving already, writes Michael Baum. A commission to consider obstacles to progress would be more useful and safer for patients than the Medical Innovation Bill

The peer Maurice Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill has just passed its third reading in the House of Lords and will shortly be debated in the Commons.1 I oppose the bill and believe that it is based on a false premise that innovation in medical practice is inhibited through fear of litigation, but whatever the outcome for the bill some things must change so that real impediments to medical innovation are recognised and dealt with.

The law is a blunt instrument, and we risk serious unintended consequences in changing the status quo. A “bill to cure cancer,” however well meaning, would remove current safeguards and be likely to add another layer of bureaucracy that would inhibit progress. And it reflects a naive understanding of the logic of scientific discovery.

Forty years of innovation

Contrary to Saatchi’s claims, medical innovation is thriving in the United Kingdom, perhaps more …

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