Why Have the “Right to Try”?

America is called the land of freedom and opportunity. Here terminally ill patients should be at liberty, knowing the potential risks, to try experimental therapies (drugs, biologics, devices) in hopes of saving their own life. These are therapies which have completed Phase 1 testing, but have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This is the argument behind the aptly titled “right to try” laws.

Opponents of the bill say that it can open up the patient to harm, but this ignores the painfully obvious fact that they already have a terminal diagnosis. Who better to make decisions affecting the life of a patient than that patient along with the counsel of their doctor? Why should a federal bureaucracy make the decision for them?

Kurt Altman, National Policy Adviser for the Goldwater Institute, has said that right-to-try laws return control of medical decisions “back to a local level”. Victor Riches, President & CEO of the Goldwater Institute said, “There’s no more fundamental freedom than the right to save your own life. Right to try guarantees that freedom by ensuring that patients, along with their doctors, are in control of the treatments they receive when facing a terminal diagnosis. Right to try will open new paths to treatments for many patients who are currently out of options.”

Liberty for All supported Senator Eric Brakey of Maine who was the lead Senate sponsor of “right to try” legislation during his time as Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. The legislation passed the Maine House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Paul LePage on March 30, 2016, making Maine the 25th state in the nation (and the first in New England) to pass “right to try” legislation. As of the beginning of 2018 thirty-eight out of the fifty United States have adopted “right to try” laws.

Last summer the United States Senate passed the “Right to Try Act of 2017” by unanimous consent. Unfortunately, it did not make it out of the US House Subcommittee on Health. But 2018 is a new year, so let’s hope that “right to try” legislation sees new life in the United States Congress and passes, giving terminally ill patients across the entirety of America a new freedom to fight for their lives.