• 01 Mar 2015

    Saatchi Bill vetoed


    Lib Dems veto Saatchi's medical innovation bill Health minister cites 'risk of unintended consequences' of law to allow doctors to use innovative treatments when other options are exhausted Press Association Sunday 1 March 2015 05.35 GMT 

    The Liberal Democrats have vetoed a proposed law seeking to give doctors legal protection to use innovative treatments on patients when other options have been exhausted. 

    The Lib Dem health minister, Norman Lamb, said he wanted to avoid "the risk of unintended consequences" of Lord Saatchi's medical innovation bill, which went unopposed in a third reading by the House of Lords and was set to go to the Commons. 

    But the Conservative peer said he was "in a state of shock" over the revelation, telling the Sunday Telegraph it was a "death sentence" for patients with diseases such as cancer. 

    Saatchi has been campaigning for a change in the law since his wife, novelist Josephine Hart, died from a form of ovarian cancer in 2011. 

    Under the proposed legislation, a doctor must obtain the views of one or more appropriately qualified doctors on the proposed innovatory treatment. 

    Writing on the Telegraph's website Lamb said the Lib Dems had consulted patient organisations, research charities, legal bodies, royal colleges and medical unions, which each had concerns it could be a risk to patient safety. 

    "I have enormous sympathy for all those who have been through the awful experience of not being offered treatment which they believe might offer a chance of survival or of improving their condition," he wrote. 

    "But getting the law right in this area is incredibly important. We have to avoid the risk of unintended consequences. 

    "I am not interested in pushing this into the long grass. It should be given priority, but we must get it right." 

    Lamb added the proposal should be reviewed by an "eminent person" before potential draft legislation could go through parliament later this year. 

    But Saatchi told the Telegraph: "By killing the bill they have killed the hopes of thousands of cancer patients. It is as simple as that. Nick Clegg has handed down a death sentence to cancer patients. It is an extraordinary turn of events. 

    "This is a grotesque insult to the House of Lords. The Liberal Democrats are saying that the House of Commons will never debate this Bill which has been sent to it and passed by the House of Lords."

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