Opposing the Saatchi Bill

We share concerns that the Medical Innovation Bill (‘Saatchi Bill’) is unnecessary and flawed. The following letter was published in The Times on Monday, signed by Laura Thomason on behalf of the Good Thinking Society.


Sir, We oppose the Medical Innovation Bill (aka the Saatchi Bill) which seeks to promote medical innovation by dispensing with current clinical negligence law in relation to decisions to provide treatment. The Bill is well-intentioned but flawed.

As the Medical Defence Union has said, there is no need for this Bill. Clinical negligence law does not impede responsible innovation; it requires only that treatment should be supported by a responsible body of medical opinion, even if the majority of doctors would not support it.

The proposed legislation is not well targeted. The Bill does not define “medical innovation”. It would remove liability for negligent treatment even if it were outdated or spurious. The Bill says nothing about the regulation or funding of innovative treatment.

The Bill does not adequately protect patients, in particular vulnerable ones whose conditions might lead them to seek obscure or untried treatments. While, as now, the patient’s consent would be needed, the Bill does not require treatments to be approved by governing bodies, ethics committees or any other doctors, only that the decision-maker has considered certain matters and has acted in an open and accountable manner.

Proponents of the Bill have claimed that it will “change medical history” and lead to a cure for cancer. Those claims are misleading and prey on the hopes of those with cancer. This Bill should not become law, and the government should look at other ways of promoting medical innovation.

Nigel Poole QC, Kings Chambers, Manchester

Suzanne White, Partner on behalf of Leigh Day Solicitors

Professor Michael Baum, Emeritus Professor of Surgery, UCL

Peter Walsh, CEO Action against Medical Accidents

Matthew Stockwell, President, Association of Personal Injury Lawyers

Stephen Webber, Chairman of the Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers

Catherine Collins, Chair of England Board, The British Dietetic Association

Keith Isaacson, Chairman, HealthWatch

Alan Henness, Director, The Nightingale Collaboration

Laura Thomason, Good Thinking Society

Margaret McCartney, GP, author and broadcaster

Professor John McLachlan, Professor of Medical Education, Durham University

Professor Richard Ashcroft, Professor of Bioethics, QMUH

Professor David Curtis, Honorary Professor of Psychiatry

Kate Rohde, Partner, Kingsley Napley LLP

Edwina Rawson, Partner, Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP

Dr Simon Taylor QC

Amanda Yip QC

William Waldron QC

The full letter has also been published on Nigel Poole’s blog, together with an updated list of signatories.