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Views & Reviews Personal View

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

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 04 February 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h531

Doctors free to innovate without fear of litigation

We see no need for and do not support the Medical Innovation Bill but agree with Michael Baum that the Bill has provided an opportunity for a wider debate about innovation in medical practice.

Since the Bill was first introduced to the House of Lords at the end of 2012, on the mistaken premise that doctors are being prevented from innovating because of the fear of litigation, we have been at pains to reassure doctors and their patients that this is not the case. Doctors have been positively encouraged to innovate for years and it happens all the time in medicine.

We have never known of a doctor being sued for using an innovative treatment, but we know doctors innovate all the time as we regularly advise MDU members about the medico-legal implications of using an innovative treatment or experimental drug regime.

The main problem we see with the Bill is that it will introduce delay and confusion to the process that is currently very clear and straightforward. Doctors can innovate without any fear of litigation, so long as they can show they acted in accordance with current legal and ethical principles governing clinical practice. This includes making sure the patient understands what they want to do and why, and agrees. We cannot support a Bill that will introduce additional and unnecessary steps to this process. It won’t benefit doctors or patients.

There is no need for additional legislation in this area and the Welsh assembly decided on 3 February the Bill is not necessary in Wales. We hope the English government will take note of this common sense approach.

Dr Michael Devlin
MDU head of professional standards and liaison

Competing interests: No competing interests

06 February 2015
Michael Devlin
Head of professional standards and liaison
Medical Defence Union
One Canada Square, London, E14 5GS