By Political Correspondent
People who receive a cancer diagnosis suffer a fate worse than death by firing squad, a Conservative peer said yesterday, as he called for doctors to be granted the freedom to try out new treatments on patients.
Lord Saatchi, the advertising guru, said that execution methods such as hanging and the electric chair were less harrowing than wasting away with cancer. “Death by hanging, by firing squad, by electric chair: no human being has devised a more brutal execution than death by cancer,” he said.
“These cancer-condemned suffer a worse fate than the worst mass murderer. While they await execution they are tortured. For them, hair loss is the good news. Less good news is their treatment regime. The drugs, the cycles of their administration, the surgical procedures are often 40 years old.”
Lord Saatchi argued that the law acts as an impediment to finding a cure for the disease. He has introduced a bill that aims to give legal protection to doctors who experiment with different procedures or treatments when all other options have been exhausted.
Under present legislation, he said, doctors worried that they could be found guilty of medical negligence if they deviated from “standard procedure”.
Introducing the second reading of his Medical Innovation Bill in the House of Lords, he said that the proposals would lift the fears from doctors’ shoulders by defining “responsible innovation” and setting out a framework for them to find new cures. They would have to consult colleagues and discuss the options with patients, he said.
The peer has been campaigning for changes to the law since the death of his wife, Josephine Hart, the novelist, from ovarian cancer in 2011. More than 40 medical professionals have backed his idea.
Earl Howe, the health minister, said that there was a delicate balance between encouraging innovation and ensuring patient safety, but said the latter should not stifle the former.
The government has suggested some amendments to the bill to strengthen oversight. Lord Saatchi said that he would adopt these suggestions.