Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Medical Innovation Bill And What It Means To Me

When you're close to someone who has been diagnosed with a rare and terminal Cancer, like Myeloma, it can be very hard to watch them go through their treatment. I wrote about my Dad here, so I won't go into it again other than to say that he has been through a second lot of treatment, so that's two bouts of chemotherapy and two stem cell transplants in 4 years. It's a harsh treatment to go through and to witness. It takes months to complete and it takes months to recover from. Quality of life is not great to say the least.

For relatives and patients going through this it is really hard to see the wood for the trees. Life is in the specialists hands and you really tend to accept that their word is gospel, you believe in them to do their very best for you. Your energy levels are low and you or your nearest and dearest are fighting against the Cancer but you don't think to question whether enough is being done for you?

Well actually enough is not being done. We hear of progress and success in the treatment of some Cancers but the majority of Cancers do not have successful treatment rates and the methods of treatment are in a lot of cases 40 years old. The same practises have been used for so long, something that astounds me, apparently we're stuck in a rut with cancer treatment and new treatments are not forthcoming. The feeling in a lot cases is that people should accept the Status Quo - that is the patients and also the doctors.

So why aren't new treatments being introduced? Why aren't doctors being encouraged to innovate?

There is really one reason for this. The cost of litigation to the NHS has doubled in the past 4 years. Billions of Pounds are currently set aside from the public purse for compensation battles that the NHS feels it won't win. This burden has a knock on effect on the way Doctors work. They may well want to pioneer new treatments and try new methods but they're held back for fear of being sued. The fear of litigation and being called out as negligent is a real one and therefore they carry on with the Status Quo and follow standard procedures. Procedures that are actually archaic and medieval in their administration. The system is by nature 'anti-innovation' and because of that the same medical practises for Cancer treatment will be used over and over again. Einstein said that the definition of Insanity is the repetition of the same experiment over and over again and expecting different results. And that sums up the system for the treatment of cancer nicely.  

Things need to change and that's where the new Medical Innovation Bill comes in. Doctors need to be encourage to innovate. they need to encourage chance. Doctors need to be made to account for their actions, when they sit back and follow standard procedure. They need to be questioned as to why they are doing that and asked is that really the best course of action? If the Bill is to go through then Multi-disciplinary teams will have a chance to help patients. If one Doctor in the team suggests a new way of treating a patient then it's up to the other doctors to explain why that wouldn't be a good way and why standard procedure is the best way. It will encourage Doctors to feel like they can speak out and Doctors who don't will be challenged more.

It's important to point out that this Bill doesn't encourage recklessness. Patients and families undergoing treatment wouldn't be exposed to Mavericks who take risks. They would be part of the dialogue and they would be able to say whether they wanted to take new medications/ undergo different methods of surgical treatment. 

To me this Bill makes sense if it encourages Doctors to move away from always using the same treatments and explore new ones, that can only be a good thing for Cancer. New innovations are needed. I thank Maurice Saatchi for drafting this Bill. As someone who has a loved one with Cancer I thank him for using his influence and channelling his experience of the disease into creating this Bill and helping progress in Cancer treatment. The Bill won't cure Cancer, the Doctors will, but the Bill will give them the freedom to explore more pathways and achieve more in the field than is currently allowed within the law.

All Cancer deaths are wasted lives. Support the #SaatchiBill


  1. Thank you for your post. So sorry to read about your Dad.

    Thank you for writing about the Bill and for taking the time to join us on Monday,

    Wishing you and your Dad all the best,


  2. I'm sorry to hear about your dad - I've always thought that it was harder for my family to see me going through the treatment than to endure it myself. Powerlessness, I suppose. Fingers crossed our rallying of the troops around the Bill makes a difference! x