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‘Right to Try’ proposal draws support, criticism

We have all become familiar with “right to die” legislative efforts, in which the dying are allowed to authorize the cessastion of resuscitative efforts as their lives come to a close.
Now, according to the Star Tribune, there is a legislative effort for a “right to try.” Right to try legislation allows those diagnosed with terminal illness a chance to try unapproved, experimental drugs and devices as a last-chance effort to save their lives.
It seems that beginning-of-life and end-of-life issues always seem to spark controversy and debate, and this proposed legislation is no exception. And this is no surprise; life is our greatest gift and one worth debating, particularly when it comes to ensuring its quality.
The right to try legislation would allow terminally ill people easier access to drugs and devices that are still undergoing clinical trials.
The proposed bill comes with some caveats: first, patients must truly be diagnosed as being terminal. Second, the experimental drugs and devices must have already passed the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) first phase of testing, which is the FDA’s most vigorous. Third, the patient must have their physician’s approval. And, fourth, pharmaceutical companies are under no obligation to provide the drugs or devices.
Opponents raise a variety of concerns. Among those concerns is that the trial drugs and devices will provide a sense of false hope. Although these items must pass the FDA’s first phase of approval, which ensures they are not toxic, there is no guarantee that the drugs or devices actually work, or whether there would be long-term side effects or ongoing benefits.
There also are concerns about costs. If the drugs or devices do cause side effects or other harm that require medical care, who pays for that?
As much as we understand the concerns, we feel that everyone has a right to life. We believe that most terminally ill people will understand that the miracle may not happen. And their experiences with trial drugs may help with future research and experimentation.
The Star Tribune article featured a 56-year-old woman who is terminally ill with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). An experimental drug has showed positive results in small samplings, but has not yet been approved.
This woman’s body is rapidly deteriorating. The end of her life will include muscle paralysis, an inability to move and a slow suffocation when she no longer has the ability to breathe on her own.
“If I’m going to die from this disease, my feeling is, give me a chance, at least,” the Golden Valley woman said.
Yes, let’s at least give her a chance.