In the 1960s, one man – Dick Fosbury – developed a new way for athletes to clear the high jump. He saw how things were done, thought there was a better way to do it and took a chance. Now, every single high jump athlete uses his technique.
It’s an example of how one person can change the course of history (albeit in a minor way) by taking a risk.
In the medical profession, this sort of ‘risk-taking’ can help lead to real innovation and advancement in medical science, eventually benefitting millions of people across the world. For example, Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin in 1928 after he discovered mould from an old, contaminated petri dish contained the antibiotic. Meanwhile, Sir Geoffrey Keynes pioneered the lumpectomy for breast cancer patients (when just the tumour is removed). He was ridiculed at the time for going against the grain of what was then the standard treatment (whereby the woman had both breasts removed and all tissue from the chest wall to ribs), but his procedure has now become a standard part of breast cancer treatment across the world.
This country has a fantastic track record of medical research and innovation, yet it seems there are less doctors willing to take risks and try new ways of treating diseases for fear of litigation or other serious consequences if something goes wrong. And they have good reason to worry; the number of lawsuits filed against the NHS has doubled in four years – last year’s pay-out was about £1.2 billion.
But one man – like Dick Fosbury, Sir Geoffrey Keynes and Alexander Fleming – is daring to change the rules.
Lord Maurice Saatchi created the Medical Innovation Bill (also known as the Saatchi Bill) to free and support doctors to find new ways to treat disease. Launched in the House of Lords in December 2012, it came after he lost his wife Josephine to ovarian cancer two years ago. Watching her endure chemotherapy, an operation and numerous procedures, he describes the treatment of cancer as “medieval, degrading and ineffective.”
“I don’t hold anything against anyone,” explains Lord Saatchi. “Everyone was trying their hardest. Nobody’s lazy; nobody’s incompetent. Everyone’s doing their absolute level best – but they are inhibited by the prospect of a trial if something goes wrong… An eminent doctor encouraged my campaign with the words: ‘This is important because one patient can change the world’. I thought it may as well be Josephine.”
A group of bloggers (and BritMums members) were invited along to hear all about the Bill before it arrived in the House of Commons for its first reading (the next phase following debates in the House of Lords before it can be given Royal Assent to become an Act). Some joined by the power of G+, but all posts are very emotive and thought-provoking. I’ll leave it to Alice, Chris, Donna, Emma (Crazy with Twins), Emma (A Bavarian Sojourn), HPMcQ, Jax, Jean, Laura, Mary, Penny, Pinchypants, Sandy, Sharon and Victoria to explain how the Saatchi Medical Innovation Bill has the potential to make a real difference and play a part in shaping the future of medical innovation. You can also read about the Bill in much more detail on the Saatchi Bill tumblr blog.
The Bill’s Second Reading is due on Friday 18 October and it’s just as important to shout about the Bill now as it was when it first launched. Despite Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill having cross-party support and the campaign to support it reaching more than two million people on Twitter, there are concerns that there still might be objections in the Commons this Friday.
A lot of you have lobbied your MPs already, but if you feel strongly about this Bill then it’s vital to keep up this pressure. As Martin Luther King once wrote, “If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write”. If he were alive today he’d probably change that last part with ‘tweet’ or ‘send an email’ and that’s exactly some of things you can do to show your support. In these next few days before the Bill’s second reading, you could:
- Tweet your support directly to David Cameron, Jeremy Hunt and your own MP and ask them if they will do the same (don’t forget to include the hashtag #SaatchiBill)
- Email your MP, asking them to support and vote for the Bill
- Follow @SaatchiBill on twitter
- Like the Saatchi Bill Facebook page and encourage others to do the same
- Tell everyone you know about it and ask them to show their support too
If the whole BritMums network comes together to show our support, our voices will join together to become a roar that will be difficult to ignore. Are you in?