Shouldn’t the Terminally Ill Have the “Right to Try” to Save Their Lives?

CascadeNewLogoBy Matthew Hayes

Recently, Michigan approved Right to Try legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support. Colorado, Missouri, and Louisiana all passed similar measures this year, with Arizonans voting on the issue this November. What is Right to Try and why is it gaining steam?

Spearheaded by the Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based public policy organization, Right to Try legislation allows terminally ill patients access to drugs, biotics, and implants that have completed basic FDA safety testing but are still awaiting further approval.

The FDA offers a similar program, known as Compassionate Use. Unfortunately, the process isn’t easy. Physicians typically face 100 hours of paperwork and research per applicant. The entire process can take several months, a luxury many terminally ill patients don’t have.

These costs are seen in the usage statistics. In 2011, fewer than 1200 patients received expanded access, while more than 1500 people died of cancer each day. Right to Try legislation removes many of these barriers, making the process easier and faster for patients. While it can’t be known how many lives these save, the number is undoubtedly greater than zero.

Since 1997, the Death with Dignity Act gives terminally ill Oregonians the right to end their lives. Bringing Right to Try to Oregon offers these citizens the chance to do more than just hasten death; it offers a chance to beat their illness.

If you have the right to die, shouldn’t you have the right to fight to live?

Matthew Hayes is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Health Care Reform | Tagged , , | 11 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • MrBill

    If someone’s already terminally ill, why not let them try some experimental treatment. Maybe it’ll kill them, but they’re going to die anyway. That experimental treatment might end up being a miracle cure that saves thousands of lives. Can’t think of any reason why we wouldn’t want to do that.

  • Granola girl

    Agree with Mr. Bill. If someone is willing to try a potentially life saving drug that could be beneficial to the world, why not??!!

  • wfecht

    I agree. but keep in mind the primary purpose of FDA is to keep out new drugs invented by small pharmaceutical companies. It takes millions and sometime billions to get a drug approved. and guess who has the pockets. Also the FDA has ruled ONLY drugs can cure a disease. There are no natural remedies that “cure” diseases. and if you believe that then go find and read about raw bitter almonds and cancer cure. There are many more such natural remedies for various diseases including cancer.

    • Eric Blair

      The FDA’s primary purpose is to make sure our drugs and food are safe. Now, they might get captured by big Ag or big Pharm… would you like to go back to the days of unsafe food and snake oil remedies?

      The FDA does not say that only drugs can cure disease — they simply do not approve herbal and other alternative remedies. Consequently those can be sold over the counter and the internet without a prescription and are available to anyone who wishes to purchase them. Generally speaking — I’m sure there are some exceptions.

      • MrBill

        I understand the FDA’s role in trying to prevent dangerous drugs from being released into the market, but I think it’s a valid complaint that the FDA is often too cautious. They bog down the approval process by requiring too many tests that are more rigorous than they need to be. How many people have died because because an effective treatment was held up in the approval process?

        • Eric Blair

          I’m not against the law… at all. I can see the advantages as long as people’s desperation are not taken advantage of

          As to your question… there is no good answer or one that could be easily provided. Then there is the flip side of the coin, how many lives were saved because dangerous medications were prevented from being prematurely released and marketed? The fact is, trial lawyers still make a good living sewing drug companies that misrepresent or rush products to the market (such as failing to warn against drug interactions that they know about).

          • Matthew Hayes

            Hey Eric, you make a great point about not taking advantage of people’s desperation. That completely goes against the spirit of Right to Try. Safeguards should definitely be in place, such as requiring informed consent. Do you have any other suggestions?

  • wfecht

    here is at least one source for information about bitter almonds. Thereare several about how poisonous they are but go looking for verification of people who dies from eating bitter almonds.

  • John

    The writer of the article and the commentators do not mention who is going to pay for the doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical goodies, and care of the individual.

    I have no objection to anyone attempting to expand their life expectancy, as long as the family down the street doesn’t have to mortgage their home to pay for someone else’s medical bills.

    It is my understanding that the Medical world is not the only route to the cure of many affictions.

    • Generally, Right to Try legislation in other states does not mandate that insurance must cover the drugs; and does not require pharmaceutical companies to either supply the drugs or pay for them. The legislation simply lets terminally ill people Try to access unapproved drugs it doesn’t guarantee such access or any third-party payments.

    • Matthew Hayes

      Hey John, jumping off of Steve’s point, Right to Try legislation typically doesn’t require pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide treatments, nor does it require insurance companies to cover the treatments. It also doesn’t prevent them from providing/covering the treatments. It becomes a voluntary transaction on the part of the patient, their insurer, and the manufacturer. Hope that clarifies things!

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