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Department of Health

Medical Innovation Bill: Will it encourage responsible innovation and help prevent what's irresponsible? Please give us your views

Is there a problem?

When we use the term ‘medical innovation’ we mean treatments that aren’t standard practice. Medical innovation has helped increase life expectancy over the past century. Boys born in 1912 were expected to live for 53 years and girls for 56 years. By 2012, life expectancy at birth was 79 years for boys and nearly 83 years for girls. (See Office for National Statistics Historic and Projected Mortality Data.)

However, the possibility of getting sued for clinical negligence might put doctors off choosing innovative treatments and might make them more likely to stick with standard practice.

There is no Act of Parliament that says what counts as responsible medical innovation or that sets out a test of clinical negligence. Instead, the law around this is found in ‘case law’, which means decisions made previously by the courts.

Case law gives doctors a defence against a claim of negligence if, when a case comes to court, they can show there is support for the treatment they gave from ‘a responsible body of medical opinion’.

The first two questions asked in the consultation paper are:

Question 1: Do you have experience or evidence to suggest that the possibility of litigation sometimes deters doctors from innovation?

Question 2: Do you have experience or evidence to suggest that there is currently a lack of clarity and certainty about the circumstances in which a doctor can safely innovate without fear of litigation?

Please now take a look at ‘What should the Bill say?’