The Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill (AMTIB) was dramatically watered down by its own sponsor last month.
Clauses in the bill that would have changed the legal tests for medical negligence, leaving patients at the mercy of rogue doctors, were deleted by Chris Heaton-Harris MP after sustained lobbying from a number of stakeholders including the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).
The Medical Innovation Bill, devised by Lord Saatchi, aims to save lives by removing a perceived fear of litigation being brought against doctors who wish to use ‘innovative techniques’. But APIL says the unintended consequence of the Bill would be the erosion of patient safety.
What remains of the bill will focus on the development of a database to record innovative treatment, and the use of authorised medical products for different purposes and different patients than initially specified – a move that has been supported by medical research charities.
This is a hugely positive step as the version of the bill that was originally proposed would have changed the law on clinical negligence and meant that patients who were harmed would be unable to seek compensation if their doctors were able to demonstrate that the treatment they had given was innovative.
At the outset, Lord Saatchi said the driving force behind the bill was that the common law of clinical negligence is impeding medical innovation.
The potential for this to remove vital safeguards for patients and put them at risk was wide reaching. Many doctors, legal experts, organisations and charities have expressed serious concerns with the Bill and even whether it is required at all. It is, therefore, very encouraging that the sections of the bill which stood to fundamentally alter clinical negligence law have been significantly watered down.
Laura Craig is a clinical negligence solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
The Slater and Gordon clinical negligence team are widely experienced in handling claims related to hospital negligence.
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