Untested drugs bill for terminally-ill gets government backing
Terminally-ill patients in Wales and England could be treated with unlicensed medicines after the proposed “untested drugs for dying” bill received a government approval.
The Medical Innovation Bill, put forward by Conservative Lord Saatchi, would allow patients dying of cancer to volunteer to be treated with unlicensed drugs.
The bill would give medical practitioners legal protection when they have completed all treatment options and wish to try experimental procedures.
The requirements have recently been updated to ensure doctors receive a specialist’s opinion prior to prescribing new drugs. This development has seen the Department of Health lend its support in the fight against terminal diseases.
The legislation will be debated in parliament on Friday and will have to complete its passage through the Lords and through all its Commons stages before becoming law.
Speaking to the Telegraph following the government’s support, Saatchi compared the search for a cure for cancer with that of a cure for Ebola and said: “In dealing with the deadly Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organisation has decided that departure from standard evidence-based treatment is fully justified and essential. It has set ethical guidelines for the use of new therapies and interventions – they are identical to the provisions of the Medical Innovation Bill.”
Lord Saatchi has campaigned on the issue since his wife Josephine Hart died from ovarian cancer in 2011.
The peer spoke about the topic in June, during the bill’s second hearing, explaining that new medicines were the only way to progress in the battle against cancer and that the current law was a barrier to progression. He said: “Scientific knowledge has not advanced by one centimetre as a result of all these deaths, because the current law requires the deceased receive only the standard procedure – the endless repetition of a failed experiment.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Innovation is at the heart of modernising the NHS and is essential for improving treatments and finding new cures and work on the Medical Innovation Bill is ongoing. We are pleased that Lord Saatchi has tabled amendments to the bill to help ensure patient and staff safety.”
The news comes on the day actor and TV presenter, Lynda Bellingham, 66, lost her battle with colon cancer.