“Right to Try” Is a Good First Step, Should Be Expanded

CascadeNewLogoBy Anna Mae Kersey

Oregon House Bill 2300 gives terminally ill patients access to potentially life-saving drugs or investigational products not yet approved by the FDA that they might otherwise die waiting for.

While the necessity of such a bill is largely uncontroversial, and since last year more than 20 states have passed similar legislation, restrictions are included in Oregon’s law that severely limit the types of terminally ill patients who would be eligible for this kind of treatment.

As passed unanimously by both the House and the Senate, HB 2300 leaves out children with fatal illnesses and patients in the early stages of cancer or progressive neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, and instead holds them subject to the same restrictions as those seeking “Death with Dignity” or assisted suicide. These patients, who have the possibility of living long and fulfilling lives during which their illnesses might be contained, if not eliminated, are denied this prospect, along with the fundamental human right to care for themselves.

HB 2300 is a good start in the direction of increasing medical autonomy for the terminally ill in Oregon. However, in future legislative sessions the law needs to be expanded so that terminally ill patients seeking to exercise their “Right to Try” are not subject to the same constraints as those seeking the “Right to Die.”

Anna Mae Kersey is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market think tank. She recently graduated from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia with an Honors B.A. in Philosophy and is pursuing a Master’s of Liberal Arts at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

  • Bob Clark

    With ALS I should think law makers would have wanted to give the same right to try, as this disease is a steady progression to a permanently weaker state.

    At the same time, no doubt the legislation contains safeguards against those marginal outfits who seek to sell to those disparate, and in the throes of terminal health, tabloid like cures.

    • Bob, you’re correct that the legislation does contain safeguards. Only drugs that have completed Phase 1 FDA clinical trials and are still in further phase studies or waiting approval are allowed, and companies cannot charge more than the direct cost of manufacturing and delivering the specific doses for Right to Try use.

      With such safeguards, there only seem to be political reasons for limiting the law’s use to those deemed to have less than six months to live. ALS patients, for example, often have at least a 50% chance of living more than five years beyond their diagnosis. To make such patients wait until they have less than six months seems cruel.

      • Bob Clark

        Thanks, Steve.

  • Marc

    If I am sick and need something I will take it no matter what anyone else says or does.

  • DR

    Good one…

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