Concern in UK over new medical experimentation bill

Xavier Symons
2 May 2014
Reproduced with Permission

Experts are seriously alarmed at a new clinical experimentation bill due to go before the UK parliament.

The Medical Innovation Bill , otherwise known as the 'Saatchi Bill', is intended to allow doctors greater freedom to experiment on dying patients. It will protect doctors from negligence claims when they depart from 'established practice', provided they fulfil certain prudential criteria.

Legal philosopher Jaquline Laing believes the law will expose vulnerable patients to mistreatment. She criticised the vague criteria outlined in two online draft versions of the bill : "Neither outlines any clear and definite criteria for experimenting on a patient". After an extensive analysis she concludes:

"In short, medical experimentation on patients is mainstreamed while no clear conditions as to what would constitute degrading and inhuman treatment are anywhere outlined. Indeed, the very possibility of degrading and inhuman treatment is not considered, whether in the language of the bill or in any preamble, and safeguards nowhere outlined."

The Academy of Royal Medical Colleges is opposing the bill on similar grounds. They argued that the prudential requirements set out by the bill were too lax, and furthermore that the bill could turn medical innovation into an individual activity: "If innovation is to be of general benefit it has ultimately to be a collective and not an individual activity."