I was invited to attend a meeting at the Houses of Parliament to hear more about the Medical Innovation Bill, also known as the Saatchi Bill.
Once I'd got through security... I found my way, past the entrances to the House of Commons and the House of Lords, to one of the Lords' committee rooms. I was one of several bloggers in attendance, all with a story to tell about how they have been affected by cancer or serious disease. Instead of a regular press conference, Saatchi wanted to explain the Bill to the storytellers. He wanted us to tell you about the Bill in the hope that you will tell your friends about the Bill. If enough people make enough noise then Parliament will listen.
Why was I there?
In November I lost a dear friend, Amanda, to cancer. I am lost without her.
I wrote about my loss on Annie's blog, as part of her cancer series, in Adrift. I would love it if you could take the time to read my story and the other stories in the series. It is one of the best pieces I have written and should adequately explain my interest in this Bill.
|Another day at the office for Chris Mosler|
What is the Saatchi Bill?
The Medical Innovation Bill will allow doctors to deviate from standard medical procedure without fear of litigation. Using multi-disciplinary peer review, and fully-informed patient consent, it will enable doctors to find new treatments for cancer and other diseases via innovation.
In 2011 Maurice Saatchi lost his wife, Josephine Hart, to ovarian cancer. He was frustrated by the lack of progress in the treatment of most cancers, and decided to use his grief to make a difference.
Maurice described cancer as relentless, remorseless and merciless and the treatment of cancer as medieval, ineffective and degrading. The standard procedures of surgery and chemotherapy are decades old. We've been handing out the same treatments for years, knowing that they are not a cure, but not being able to deviate from those procedures to make any progress. He called it the endless repeat of a failed experiment.
We keep doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.
An Act of Parliament can't cure cancer, but it may enable the man or woman who can. It will do this by clarifying in law what is responsible innovation.
Professor Andy Hall filled in some of the background to the traditional treatment of cancer. In the 1950's childhood leukemia was not treated at all, now it has some of the best survival rates of any cancer. This is because some doctors were bold. We need to make those kinds of leaps now.
Debbie Binner spoke beautifully about her daughter, Chloe. Chloe was just 15 when she felt a pain in her leg. It turned out to be bone cancer. Debbie said that Chloe was not one of the lucky ones. She could not have an amputation. Debbie fought to get her daughter the best treatment, but found doctors too willing to accept the status quo. Chloe died in February, aged 18.
Michael Ellis, MP for Northampton, will present the Bill to the House of Commons for its first reading tomorrow. He explained that the Bill has cross-party support and will give doctors the tools they need to make a difference.
At the end of the presentations we, and those joining us via G+, had the opportunity to share our reason for being there and to ask questions. I asked about another barrier to innovation, lack of money. I asked about the role of drug companies and their lack of investment where they could not see a quick profit being made. Debbie responded that she had found that huge publicity can focus a spotlight on the drug companies. If enough people make a fuss it is their corporate social responsibility to respond. Lord Saatchi added that this Bill is focused on changing a risk-averse culture. Lack of money alone does not block innovation. Barrister Daniel Greenberg, who drafted the Bill, made the point that this Bill give doctors freedom to innovate, not drug companies. He also reminded us that medicine is not just about drugs.
I found the meeting moving and informative, and the setting was spectacular. The law does need to change. I hope I am a tiny part of history being made, it certainly felt like it being sat in a committee room in the Houses of Parliament.
What can you do?
Talk about the Bill, on social media, on blogs, at the water cooler, at the school gate.
Let's have a debate about it.
Follow @SaatchiBill on Twitter and use #SaatchiBill
Write to your MP and ask them to support the Bill. It amused me that the politicians were trying to move with the times and harness the power of social media, yet when we asked what they would like us to do they suggested writing to our MP's. Old-fashioned it may be, but in our democracy this is the way to influence the person who represents us in Parliament. I sent my MP an email, it took just minutes.
The Medical Innovation Bill
Cancer 52. 52% of cancers are rare forms of cancer.
Maurice Saatchi, talking in the Telegraph.