The Access to Medical Innovations bill is a classic case of misleading the public with a badly named bill. But the “Removal of protection from medical quacks bill” wouldn’t sound so good. Nor would, as Tory MP and GP Sarah Wollaston called it in a Huffington Post article, the Medical Anecdote Bill.
So what is this bill? It is a proposal that we allow doctors to give patients unproven treatments without fear of litigation, and to have a database of these unproven treatments that people can refer to. Those of its supporters who are well meaning think this will allow dying people access to treatments which might just save their lives – treatment to which they would otherwise be denied because of pesky lawyers. The problem with that is it’s complete and utter nonsense. No-one has been able to point to treatments which are not being attempted because of fear of litigation, and this law will simply reduce the ability for patients to sue in the case of genuine negligence, while drumming up work for private clinics offering expensive and unhelpful treatments to desperate patients, while at the same time reducing the number of patients who can participate in the already under-resourced genuine medical research. Patients lose, the medical profession loses, but private quacks win. Mwhahaha.
Think this is far fetched? There are people who claim to be able to cure autism by giving a child bleach to drink. All it has been shown to do is destroy the stomach lining. Similar chemicals are sold as MMS – a cure for aids, flu and malaria. People buy them because they are desperate, and this bill would help protect people who sell such treatments. That snake oil is extreme, but more benign fake cures will have the defence of “innovation”.
Surely the medical profession want to be able to innovate though? Yes – of course they do. But they say that they are already only hampered by lack of funding and lack of patients joining trials. They are not hampered by threat of legal action, which is said to be a non-issue by the Medical Research Council, the Association of Medial Research Charities, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the British Medical Association, the Wellcome trust, and many more medical bodies, who are all against the bill. The medical profession is pretty much unanimous in it’s opinion that this will do nothing but hurt patients and limit their ability to do real science based research. Even the commons health select committee is against it. But will that be enough to stop the law which will hurt everyone but the quacks? Unlikely.