02/12/2012 10:53 GMT

Legal Defence For Doctors Trialling New Treatments In Saatchi's Private Members' Bill

Doctors are too scared of getting sued to make any steps forward in finding a cure for cancer, Lord Saatchi said as he launched a Private Members' Bill to give legal defence for doctors who make medical innovations.

He said innovation is being stifled by medical law because no doctor has a defence against negligence claims if they have deviated from standard procedure.

The bill aims to clarify the differences between "responsible innovation" and "reckless experimentation", he said.

doctors cancer

Doctors are too scared of being sued to trial new drugs, claims Saatchi

Work towards the Medical Innovations Bill, began one year ago - only months after his wife Josephine Hart died from a form of ovarian cancer.

The novelist, whose debut novel Damage sold more than one million copies, was 69 when she died.


Lord Saatchi's wife died from cancer last year

Her death in June last year left Lord Saatchi grief- stricken and angry at the lack of treatment available.

"Cancer is a disease which is relentless, remorseless and merciless," he told the Press Association.

"I also found the treatment was medieval, degrading and ineffective.

"The survival rate for gynaecological cancer is zero and the mortality rate is 100%. These figures are the same as they were 40 years ago. That is because the treatments, the drugs, the procedures and the operations are exactly the same as they were 40 years ago - therefore more innovation is required."

He said the aim of the bill is to "cure cancer" by encouraging innovation in medicine.

"Will the bill cure cancer? No - but it will encourage the man or woman who will.

"At the moment, the law is disincentive to innovation - the current law is a barrier to progress in curing cancer.

"At present, any deviation from standard procedure is likely to result in a guilty verdict of medical negligence. Innovation is a deviation - no deviation is no innovation.

"The current law is a disincentive to innovation and therefore a disincentive to finding a cure.

"Fear of litigation is a deterrent to innovation in cancer treatments. By defining what is responsible innovation, that will encourage innovation."

The bill, which sets out measures doctors should take to make "responsible innovation", will encourage advancement as well as deterring reckless medics.

It has received backing from many medical professionals and legal experts.

Professor Alan Ashworth, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, said: "I fully support Lord Saatchi's Bill which highlights an important issue.

"If we are to improve outcomes for cancer patients it is essential that clinicians are free to innovate as long as appropriate safeguards are in place.

"This is particularly true for new therapies, which are being developed at an ever-increasing pace."