A quacktastic piece of legislation in England and Wales (UPDATE: Revision)

The Quackometer blog alerts us to a legal action pending in the U.K. that is misguided and will allow quacks to flourish, freed from standard ethical considerations and rigorous scientific testing.

The Saatchi Bill: A Quacks’ Charter | The Quackometer Blog.

Maurice Saatchi, the former advertising businessman and Tory peer, has introduced a Bill to parliament designed to encourage medical innovation. After the death of his wife from cancer, Saatchi believed that doctors were being held back from making innovations that could save lives. The “Medical Innovation” Bill is designed to encourage and protect doctors who wish to try new things in cancer treatment with the aim of speeding up the rate of discovery.

Saatchi says that current treatments are “medieval, degrading and ineffective” and that doctors are prevented from deviating from standard care for fear of medical negligence claims. Fear of litigation is a “barrier to progress”.

However, at present the Bill is deeply flawed, will remove vital protections from patients and, in my opinion, be a quacks’ charter which will allow mavericks, charlatans and the deluded to mislead and harm people at a most desperate time.

As Andy Lewis and other note, this is not how a cancer breakthrough will occur. While Saatchi feels his wife might have been helped, promises don’t equal a cure. One maverick does not hold the miracle cure. But that seems to be what this is geared for.

The document is here [PDF].

The Government should do whatever is needed to remove barriers that prevent innovation which can save and improve lives. We must create a climate where clinical pioneers have the freedom to make breakthroughs in treatment.

So regulation, sound procedure and scientific ethics be damned? I don’t believe that real innovation is stifled. I think that false hope is being given a loophole. This would benefit doctors like Stan Burzynski and those hawking other untested, potentially dangerous “treatments”. The background information mentions that clinical negligence claims are barriers to trying new treatments. Maybe for good reason.

The bill [PDF] itself allows for the doctor’s opinion. That is very much open to interpretation (many smart people have rather awful opinions). I’m not used to looking at other country’s legislation but this writeup seems particularly vague with loopholes big enough to drive a bus through. Considering the questionable supporters, it should make medical advocates cringe.

Visit Quackometer to add your name to the list of people concerned. Hurry, it needs to be done today.

UPDATESaatchi Bill – The Saatchi Bill Consultation is over – what happens now?.

So far, more than 18,000 people – including patients, doctors, researchers, scientists and charities – have responded to the consultation supporting the Bill, many confirming that they have experienced the deterrent effect that an increasingly risk-averse culture is having on responsible medical innovation.

A revised version of the bill is being drafted.

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  5 comments for “A quacktastic piece of legislation in England and Wales (UPDATE: Revision)

  1. Woody
    April 24, 2014 at 10:18 PM

    Oh dear … does Saatchi even know what fraudulent, money grabbing shams he is allowing? We have cringed at the survival of medical frauds with baseless remedies and cheered, smiles revealing all of our teeth when groups that are supposed to stop such dangerous scams actually do so. I’ve felt the loss personally and understand the feelings about a more open field for medical remedies. But now I know the importance of testing and the damage caused by irresponsible practice, it is a dark day for the progression of cancer therapy in that land when extra room is given to the quacks and hucksters.

  2. Mark Richards
    April 24, 2014 at 11:50 PM

    Not to minimise the need for vigilance on such things, this is a “private member’s bill” arising from The House Of Lords. As such it has an awful long way and many hurdles to overcome before it would even get debated in Parliament.

    First, it needs an MP to adopt it; they’re all gearing up for an election 12 months hence so won’t be looking to take on anyone else’s pet project right now.

    • PAUL KLARREICH
      April 25, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      When Britain really ruled the waves –
      (In good Queen Bess’s time)
      The House of Peers made no pretence
      To intellectual eminence,
      Or scholarship sublime;
      Yet Britain won her proudest bays
      In good Queen Bess’s glorious days!

      When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte,
      As every child can tell,
      The House of Peers, throughout the war,
      Did nothing in particular,
      And did it very well:
      Yet Britain set the world ablaze
      In good King George’s glorious days!

      And while the House of Peers withholds
      Its legislative hand,
      And noble statesmen do not itch
      To interfere with matters which
      They do not understand,
      As bright will shine Great Britain’s rays
      As in King George’s glorious days!

      — W.S. Gilbert, in Iolanthe, Act 2

  3. Adam
    April 25, 2014 at 4:18 AM

    The UK has a Cancer Act which bans virtually all forms of quackery related to cancer – you can’t advertise, sell or promote any product which claims to cure cancer. It’s a good piece of legislation and has been on the books since 1939 although the fines are extremely weak.

    Errol Denton (a bonafide kook, quack, and freeman on the land rolled into one) was convicted and fined recently under the act but clearly makes so much money that he’ll probably just keep on doing until the courts get tougher.

  4. Ray
    April 29, 2014 at 2:20 AM

    This law would be the beginning of the end of science-based medicine. Most doctors are NOT scientists. The ones who are scientists are doing actual medical research (usually PhDs rather than MDs) but the MDs that most people know as their doctors don’t do research – nor are they qualified to do research. Nor are they allowed to.

    So now those doctors would be free to… what?… experiment on their patients?

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