Monday, 24 February 2014

Act Now - the Saatchi Bill for Medical Innovation

Today I was honoured and humbled to be at the House of Lords to hear Lord Saatchi discussing the Medical Innovation Bill.

New legislation he is hoping to get written into statute to allow doctors and medical professionals the freedom to give patients access to the treatments they request.

Currently the medical profession is stifled by fear of litigation and so doctors; consultants and oncologists are left with only the tried and tested, and for the most part very outdated and ineffective drugs and chemotherapy for those suffering with cancer and other diseases.

We heard Lord Saatchi speak passionately and from the experience of his wife lost to cancer, just how barbaric and horrific some of these current treatments actually are.  And worse still, they only offer a minimal chance at helping the patient.

He likened our current chemotherapy to the use of leeches in days gone by, and said how in years to come we'll realise just how futile and unnecessarily painful the treatment can be.

Lord Saatchi: 

"We need a better balance between defensive medicine and innovation".

"There will be no cure for cancer until a real doctor with a real patient in a real hospital can attempt innovation".

We heard Debbie Binner speak so eloquently about the loss of her teenage daughter Chloe to a rare cancer, and heard from her best friend Mike Thomas what impact losing a friend has.  Ridiculously, even though Chloe was suffering from a teenage cancer, she was deemed too young to take part in a drug trail because she was under 18.

We heard moving testimony from Alex Smith whose son Harrison has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, for which there is currently no cure.  The illness has given Harrison a death sentence from which the only reprieve will be innovative medical research.  Alex implored us that the 'science should serve the children' and for us to look into our hearts and ask ourselves whether we've done everything we can possibly do to help.

Dr Ian Hampson spoke with palpable frustration at the red tape and bureaucracy which is hampering the use of what could be our best hope at curing cervical cancer.  He and his wife Dr Lynne Hampson have discovered that a drug currently licenced for the treatment of HIV, also tackles the virus that causes cervical cancer, the cancer which kills one woman every two minutes.  However, the drug is only licensed for oral use, and to be effective against cervical cancer it needs to be administered as a pessary.  Dr Ian Hampson explained how he's so far battled the bureaucrats for 8 years to get around try and get this drug approved for use in a different way.

Why are we tying our expert's hands?  If a person has a poor prognosis, is aware of any risks and has nothing else to lose, why shouldn't they have the right to demand every possible shot at a cure?  To try every possible medicine and drug.

We have the power to change this.  To make sure that medical innovation doesn't stagnate because doctors and health trusts are scared of being sued.  There would never have been the breakthroughs in medical science over history if people didn't try new approaches. Imagine a world without antibiotics; pacemakers and vaccinations.

The time to act is now.  The bill will be passed if we the public want it.  Go to the website now and make your voice heard.  Cancer affects one in three of us.  It is our problem.  It is our responsibility.

You can watch today's discussion at the House of Lords here:

Further reading:

Article by today's chair Dr Max Pemberton, medic and Daily Telegraph health columnist

Article about Drs Hampson's medical breakthrough for cervical cancer

Have your say:


  1. This is an amazing cause. Thank you so much Liz for bringing it to our attention!!!

  2. This is something that is close to my heart as my father suffers from an incurable disease, and with the innovations that this Bill will give access to there may be hope, if not for him, but for others in the future. Thanks for a great post highlighting the issues.

  3. I've been reading a lot about this and it seems so simple. All we have to do as the public is say we want this to pass. WE WANT THIS TO PASS.

  4. He's right and put it exquisitely well - 'A better balance between defensive medicine and innovation".

  5. It's been really interesting to read these posts and hear people talking about it. It would be great if it gets passed.

  6. This has got to happen - not just for those with cancer but for those with syndromes for whom life could be made so much better.

  7. I cannot believe that there are people arguing against this - it would be such a great boost to doctors and to health.

  8. It was an inspiring day and it was good to hear that it will benefit people other than cancer sufferers! Alex was amazing and I know this support for the bill means a lot to him and the family! (

  9. I hope that those arguing against this bill never find themselves in the situation that they need a different treatment to the one that is available

  10. It was an honour to be there and listen to the speakers, I felt an enormous hope build inside me and I really do hope they can get this Bill passed it would benefit so many people

  11. the current standard procedures make absolutely no sense, this NEEDS to pass for BOLD, scientific, responsible innovaiton to succeed. Like Debbie said this bill will encourage the good doctors and expose the bad.

  12. I was quite emotional watching this live and taking part in the Twitter chat.I do hope that this bill gets passed soon so doctors can start giving proper care to patients.

  13. I really don't know why it's taking that long for the bill to pass. It's a no-brainer really, isn't it?

  14. Why does it have to take so long for people to realise that this was such a good cause?