Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill to Have Second Reading on Friday, 16 October

Posted by ab98 at Oct 13, 2015 11:30 AM |
On Friday, Chris Heaton-Harris is due to introduce his Access to Medical Treatments (innovation) Bill (AMTIB) to the House of Commons. It is supposed to build on Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill (MIB), which ran out of time during the last parliament. It is, unfortunately, impossible to support either Bill, for the reasons outlined in this blog entry.

The AMTIB does two things. First, it empowers the Secretary of State to create a register of innovative treatments (something that he does not need legislation to do). Then, it fundamentally modifies the law of negligence in order to, it is argued by its creators and supporters, remove the fear of litigation from doctors contemplating innovative treatments. This second element of the Bill is virtually directly taken from Lord Saatchi’s MIB, and has been the source of much criticism.

Indeed, the MIB was opposed by all of the major medical bodies (including the GMC, BMA and Royal Colleges), the medical protection organisations, medical research charities like Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust and even patients’ groups such as AvMA and the Patients’ Association. A major problem with the MIB/AMTIB is that it replaces a court’s ability to assess the quality of a doctor’s decision-making process with a rubber stamping exercise that merely allows the court to assess whether the doctor has completed a process of consultation and contemplation.  It thus removes the courts’ power to assess the content of decisions; as it will only be able to assess the process of decision-making. This would allow maverick doctors and groups of ‘quacks’ to effectively indemnify each other. Currently, if such doctors injured patients the courts could intervene.  Under the MIB/AMTIB framework, the courts would be powerless and patients injured due to negligence would have no legal avenues for redress.

Ironically, given the title of the AMTIB, it provides no access to treatments beyond what is currently permitted, and indeed does not help patients at all. Rather, it explicitly removes the patient’s ability to sue. This is particularly unjustified since the Department of Health’s consultation regarding the MIB found no evidence that doctors are deterred from innovative practice due to a fear of litigation. This view was shared, again, by the major medical bodies, medical protection organisations, research charities and patients’ groups, as well as representatives of the legal profession.

This means that the MIB/AMTIB would remove rights from patients to solve a problem that does not exist. For this reason, the Welsh Assembly accurately called the MIB “a solution in search of a problem and not a very sound solution at that”.

For a thorough account of the failings of the MIB (and therefore the AMTIB), see J. Miola, ‘Bye Bye Bolitho? The Curious Case of the Medical Innovation Bill’ (2015) Medical Law International (available on advance access, For those without a subscription to the journal, a free version is available).

Chris Heaton-Harris’ Bill and explanatory notes are available is available.

MIB website.

Opponents of the Bill

Update: The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have today confirmed that they remain strongly against the MIB/AMTIB.

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