This is written as a supplement to my analysis published here and in the Irish Examiner November 29 th and, given the social media discussion it has created, to deal with the extraordinary wording of the Treatment of Cancer (Advertisements) Bill and the concerns I have raised about what may be its real intent.
It is reasonable to point out that I have no medical expertise whatsoever, but my concerns stem from experience of cartels, how they form and how they work in practice in Ireland including in the medical areas in the past. Rip Off Republic 2005 dealt squarely with the pernicious impact of protectionism and hidden power and I’ve written many times along the same theme including calling out the Irish Deep State.
Fully aware of the damage caused by quacks and charlatans, I’ve come at this Bill from the
above aspect, not from its banner, its PR and some sloppy media recycling but its intent to restrict and control a marketplace, vital to the health and life of its consumers. The Bill is short and available at Government publications and ought to be read in conjunction with the notes that follow for those who may wish to challenge my reading;
The net is cast very wide to include all organisations involved in healthcare but not specifically listed in S2 (4) (a) 1-6 as having a justifiable defence against an attack under the Act as intended by the Bill. Those regarded as having a defence include persons registered under the Dentists Act 1985, Medical Practitioners Act 2007, Nurse and Midwives Act 2011, Pharmacy Act 2007, Health & Social Care Act 2005 or persons training under these headings. This does not mean that members of these professions are excluded, it means merely that membership of these professions can be used as a defence.
Now consider what that means in practice if a medical professional differs in opinion on a matter related to cancer surgery because he or she is advancing new medical science or simply has a different opinion and differs from the conventions overseen by the regulator. Not straightforward is it, when you read this Bill?
The Bill, by casting its net wide and then listing those who may have a defendable position, by definition alienates a swathe of practitioners, acupuncturists, herbalists, alternative medicine, therapists etc. Person means any individual, corporate or unincorporated body so it clearly captures all representative organisations whether listed or not which as implications for public advocates.
The activity regarded as offensive is to take “any part” in “the publication of any advertisement” that contains “an offer” to treat any person or provide any remedy for cancer or any advice in connection with treatment which “suggests that a medical consultation, diagnosis, treatment or surgical operation is unnecessary for the treatment of cancer”. Offenders are to be civilly and criminally liable.
Publication means telling anyone other than yourself and any part means what it says, any part in the chain of events that leads to publication so that doesn’t just mean above line items like brochures but below line publication in correspondence, reports and consultations which is clear from the way that “an offer” is constructed in the Bill.
The intent is sealed by S2 (7) which veers right off the page of what is generally considered advertising by specifically defining “advertisement” to mean “any publication made orally” so that means speaking. It also means doing so on social media.
The Bill, S1 (2) captures the entire population whether with or without cancer by defining persons as having cancer or “to be at risk of getting cancer” which is all of us, the last time I asked an Oncologist.
So you’ll see why I have raised concerns and stand by the analysis that this Bill may be intended to annex a key part of the healthcare market for the privilege of listed professions but even therein to outlaw any type of publication or speaking about cancer treatments that does not comply with the current limits or conventions of medical science. Healthcare providers not listed are at particular risk to civil or criminal proceedings merely for speaking and citizens are alienated from contrary opinion despite constitutional rights to bodily integrity and free speech.
This is not the way to crack down on charlatans, rogues and con artists but may be the way to capture the marketplace by pretending to do so. A full rethink is necessary and medical professionals listed or not, need to refer this Bill to their lawyers before engaging with a political establishment that appears not to get the message; This is not the way to progress cancer treatments or science in Ireland.
2nd December 2019