Patients and the public in England are being urged by the government to voice their views on proposals to encourage doctors to try new innovative treatments when others are failing without undue fear of prosecution for clinical negligence.
The Medical Innovation Bill seeks to clarify in law that is it not negligent for a doctor to deviate from standard practice in treating a serious or life-threatening condition if the decision to do so is taken responsibly and is in the patient's best interest.
In effect, this means that doctors will have much greater freedom to innovate where there is no body of opinion to support the innovation or where it’s not clear whether this exists.
The Bill was introduced to parliament by former advertising guru Lord Saatchi, who lost his wife to cancer in 2011, on the premise that in the current environment doctors are afraid to innovate as they fear legal recourse if things go wrong.
"We want to make sure doctors are not held back if they want to use pioneering treatments to offer a lifeline to dying patients," said health secretary Jeremy Hunt, adding "Innovation has always been at the heart of the NHS and is essential for improving treatments and finding new cures".
"It deters from irresponsible experimentation but encourages a much needed attitude change of innovation in the provision of care to cancer patients," said Professor Ahmed Ashour Ahmed, Professor of Gynaecological Oncology, Consultant Gynaecological Oncology Surgeon and Scientist at the University of University of Oxford, previously voicing support for the Bill.
The government has reportedly said it will pass the Bill, but only if the public wants it. The consultation will run until April 25.