HEAL seminar: 11 February Bernadette Richards on ‘Exploring a duty to encourage innovative treatment’

In Key Legal Concepts, Meetings on January 26, 2015 at 9:00 am

On 11 February 2015, we’re delighted to welcome Dr Bernadette Richards, Associate Professor, Law School, University of Adeleide to speak on ‘Exploring a duty to encourage innovative treatment’. This seminar will run from 1pm in room 4005/4.  All welcome.


On the 27th July 2006 Bethany Bowen died during an elective laparoscopic splenectomy. It was later determined that the cause of death was the unauthorised use of a surgical instrument approved for gynaecological use but without any supporting research or approval for paediatric use.  She died as a result of misguided and misinformed surgical innovation.  When innovation fails and patients suffer significant harm questions are raised about the appropriateness of such innovation and there are public calls for safeguards.  The media is filled with demands of legal intervention to make sure that tragedies such as this never happen again.  Minds quickly turn to ways to control innovation and protect patients, implicit in many recommendations is a view that innovation is bad and causes harm.  However, this is not the case. There is a role to be played by the law in the process of introducing new medical and surgical procedures but care must be taken to avoid the temptation to introduce policy that stifles innovation, such a policy would be against the broad public interest in a functioning healthcare system.

This seminar will explore the appropriate parameters of surgical innovation and assert that the law must not stifle innovation, rather it must encourage and support responsible innovation (this will include critical consideration of the Medical Innovation Bill (the Saatchi Bill).  It will demonstrate that it is consistent with the medical duty of care to identify a duty to encourage medical advancement, to ensure that we look to the future and seek improved medical  care.

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