Treatment of Cancer (Advertisements) Bill 2018: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide, in the interests of the common good, for the prohibition of certain advertisements relating to the treatment of cancer and to provide for related matters.

This Bill seeks to provide greater protection for patients who receive cancer diagnoses and are then inundated in this most vulnerable moment with communications from people seeking to sell them treatments or claims of cures. The origins of the Bill lie in the concerns of the cancer care community. There is growing concern among clinicians who see the effects of false claims due to a lack of regulation in the area. There are no adequate safeguards in place to address unproven and, at times, dangerous suggested cures or treatments which are pushed on those who receive cancer diagnoses. The Bill proposes provisions to prosecute those who are making large sums of money by peddling things they claim can cure cancer when there is no evidence to support those claims. These people are selling treatments which, at best, have no effect whatsoever but which at their worst increase pain and suffering and often hasten death. It is not the patient who will be found at fault under the proposals in the Bill, rather it will be those who profit from promoting products of dubious or dangerous composition or efficacy. Anyone who advertises a treatment or therapy that has been proven to be effective will be exempt from prosecution under the Bill. Likewise, doctors, nurses and others working in the field of oncology or cancer care will be exempt also. Similarly, patient access to clinical trials will not be affected, nor will emerging research and study in the fields of cancer research, clinical care or treatment.

Many medical professionals have been calling for this legislation for some time as they have watched patients pursue pathways that can seriously interfere with their medical treatment. There is no end to the sad and frightening stories oncologists, nurses, families, patients and dieticians working in this area have to tell. RTÉ's "Prime Time" with Conor Wilson did great work to expose some of these practices in a special programme which aired some weeks ago. It was an excellent example of public service broadcasting in the truest sense, notwithstanding the deeply upsetting narrative. It is for the people we may know who are going through cancer treatment and the people we have lost that this Bill is presented to the House. I urge the Opposition to support the Bill and I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to introduce it.

I express my strong support for the Private Member's Bill proposed by Deputy Kate O'Connell. We have seen enormous improvements in cancer care in Ireland over the past few decades with the result that more people with cancer now survive than die. We will continue to see improvements in that regard as screening and prevention improve and as we make improvements to our cancer care centres. However, I share the real concern about the exploitation of many people who are sick with cancer by those offering cures and treatments which do not work along with various other false health claims. They do so for profit and abuse immensely vulnerable people. As such, the legislation is timely and I welcome the fact that it is on First Stage today.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.