The Department of Health has launched a consultation on the Medical Innovation Bill (the "Bill") prepared by Lord Saatchi following the death of his wife, Josephine Hart, to ovarian cancer, and which had its first reading in the House of Lords on 3 December 2012. The Bill aims to make provision for responsible innovation in medical treatment by allowing doctors to depart from what they believe to be the pre-existing range of acceptable treatments for a condition where they take into consideration, amongst other things:   

  • the risks associated with the treatment the doctor proposes to apply and other treatments;  
  • the relative likely success rates of the treatment the doctor proposes (in the doctor's reasonable judgment);
  • the relative likely consequences of applying, or failing to apply, the treatment the doctor proposes, and other treatments;
  • opinions or requests expressed by or in relation to the patient; and
  • any other matter that appears to the doctor to be reasonably necessary to be considered in order to reach a clinical judgment. 

Lord Saatchi hopes the Bill will “safely [shift] the balance from therapeutic conservatism to therapeutic innovation.” And indeed, with the patient’s consent and in cases where the evidence on standard practice is unclear, the Bill would allow doctors to innovate and deviate from once commonly accepted norms.

If enacted, the Bill could open up positive opportunities for pharmaceutical and medical devices companies as the industry has long found that fears of medical negligence claims have hampered doctors' take up of innovative new treatments and products.

Contributions should be made to the consultation by 25 April 2014. We will continue to monitor developments.