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‘PR machine’ Lord Saatchi’s Bill will create more litigation

Medical Innovation Bill lobbyists say it will damage doctor-patient relationship

26 November 2014

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Lord Saatchi is winning the PR war over the controversial Medical Innovation Bill, according to a medical negligence expert.

Earlier this month, Suzanne White, a partner in the medical negligence team at Leigh Day and a member of the Stop the Saatchi Bill Alliance, said: "All patients should be very worried about whether this Bill goes ahead, especially as the government has given it tacit support.

"Lord Saatchi is still grieving and it is commendable that he is looking to put right his perceived wrongs, however the folly of his actions could lead to many more deaths and insufficient care for all patients, not only those dying of cancer."

'PR machine'

Speaking at the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers' (APIL) Autumn conference in London, White issued a call to arms for medical negligence practitioners saying: "I do not think that the legal profession has woken up to the potential impact of this Bill."

She continued that lawyers are not PR experts but in Lord Saatchi, the legal profession has an adversary able to sway public opinion. She quoted the conservative peer in an article he wrote for The Telegraph in May this year in which he said: "In democratic politics, perception is reality. If the people perceive a problem, there is one."

Lord Saatchi has repeatedly claimed that medical negligence litigation is the reason why a cure for cancer has yet to be discovered and, as White explained, 'lawyers put cash before patients'.

"Why do I oppose it? What kind of monster am I?" asked White. "I believe this Bill will damage the doctor-patient relationship. I accept that the Bill will have an effect on litigation; it will create more of it. There will be less clarity, more litigation."

Hindering innovation?

A letter published earlier this month in The Times from more than 100 of the UK's leading cancer doctors and researchers spoke of their 'dismay' that the Bill, "is being promoted as offering hope to patients and their families when it will not make any meaningful difference to progress in treating cancer."

The letter also made clear that the law around medical negligence does not hinder or prevent innovation. Signatories to the letter included Professor Jonathan Ledermann from Cancer Research UK who is currently leading an international clinical trial of a new treatment for women with ovarian cancer.

A line by line examination of the Bill took place during committee stage on 24 October. Amendments discussed covered clauses 1 and 2 of the proposed legislation. The report stage has been scheduled for 12 December.

"The Saatchi team claims that there is a 75 per cent chance that the Bill will become law and that it has the backing of the government. In an election year, who would oppose a Bill that claims to cure cancer?" said White.

She concluded: "Saatchi is a PR man. It is very difficult to compete against a PR machine."

Leading academics, legal experts and physicians have now come together to form the Stop the Saatchi Bill Alliance, to combat the 'PR machine' created by the millionaire peer.

John van der Luit-Drummond is legal reporter for Solicitors Journal

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Clinical negligence