By Dr Lefever
The Medical Innovation Bill, to be introduced by Lord Saatchi, is intended to help patients by allowing their doctors to be less constrained by clinical orthodoxy.
Single issue fanatics, whose fervent beliefs have no scientific merit, will still be reined in. But doctors who can make a reasonable case for a non-standard approach will be able to do so. Clearly they have to have the support of the patient. Also they must convince a scrutinising panel
The Medical Innovation Bill intends to make it easier to define what is sensible and permissible innovation and, by contrast, what is reckless experimentation.
It would do this by setting out a clear protocol to follow before offering the patient an innovative or experimental procedure.
Under the bill, the lead clinician must consult with, and gain approval from, a multi-disciplinary team. Without approval, the innovation cannot be legally offered.
This approach is eminently sensible. Which of us would not want to brush aside ‘the way things have always been done’ if doing so might bring additional years of health and happiness to a loved one?
Doctors in the front line, right alongside their patients in the battle with disease and decay, want to do the best they can. So who is the enemy? Who has a vested interest in the status quo? Whose head would roll if something did not work out as hoped when something new is tried?
The answer at present is that we are witnessing a civil war. The doctor’s own career would be sacrificed if he or she steps out of line.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) was intended to weed out mavericks. It has become the keeper of the purse for the NHS.
The General Medical Council has responsibility for putting doctors names onto the medical register, through monitoring medical education, as well as for striking off miscreants. Yet how much attention do they pay to considering whether doctors are properly trained for the job they actually do? For example, are GPs trained to counsel? Hardly at all. Yet that is half the work. Are specialists trained to take risks? No. But they have to.
Lawyers and Coroners judge the actions of doctors on what their colleagues would customarily do.
A profound inertia results from the limited vision of these guardians of public safety – with the consequence, as Lord Saatchi understands only too well, that doctors now fear more for themselves and their families than they do for their patients.
About the author
Dr Robert Lefever is regarded as the pioneer of addiction treatment methods and rehab centres in the UK. He established the very first rehabilitation centre that treated patients with eating disorders alongside those with drug and alcohol problems. He was also the first to treat compulsive gambling, and workaholism.
READ: Dr Lefever’s own blog