In our current political climate, it’s nearly impossible to get through the day without seeing something about Planned Parenthood or ‘right-to-choose’ related news. But, for the past three years, another important healthcare battle has been waged and mostly ignored by the mainstream media: the right-to-try.
Over the past three years, 33 states have passed laws with the intent of helping terminally-ill patients gain increased access to experimental drugs via the right-to-try movement. Patients and supporters argue that they are just looking for the right to try solutions that may help them, whereas medical ethicists claim such laws pose worrisome risks to the health and finances of vulnerable patients.
In January of this year, California became the most recent state to introduce a right-to-try law. Any Californian doctor or hospital that wants to prescribe a medicine that has successfully passed a Phase 1 drug trial will now be protected by law. Monitored by the Food and Drug Association, Phase 1 drug trials focus merely on a patient’s safety rather than the effectiveness of the drug. During Phase 2 and Phase 3, however, drugs are tested for side-effects and effectiveness, which can sometimes take up to several years.
For those in support of the right-to-try law, the main argument is time. Once diagnosed, a patient may not have the time to wait for a drug to pass through all three phases. Supporters conclude that given the time constraint, patients should have the right to explore every treatment option.
In support, Assemblyman Ian Calderon continues, “It’s inhumane to have a law on the books that allows you to end your own life, but no law on the books that allows you to fight to extend it.”
Historically, supporters feel that doctors have been hesitant to prescribe experimental drugs. The law ensures that doctors can help patients petition to get experimental medicine from drug makers without fear of harm from the state’s medical board.
However, there is a fear from the opposition that such laws pose risks to the health and finance of vulnerable patients due to an increased chance of patients being taken advantage of. To this, supporters argue, “We are smart, informed, and feel it is our right to try some of these solutions because we’re going to die anyway”.
It is true that patients may be spending large sums of money on treatments that are not guaranteed to work. Furthermore potentially missing out on a more peaceful passing. Either way, patients with terminal illnesses may ultimately feel they are suffering with or without the drugs.
Right-to-try is certainly a controversial debate. Both viewpoints are completely valid; how do we define the line between trying to protect patients while giving them freedom in their health care decisions? Furthermore, if medical science can’t be tailored towards each patient, how do we increase our chance of favorable outcomes? When it comes to experimental drugs, having peer-to-peer interaction would be a huge bonus. Communicating with other patients before trying the treatment yourself could help bring you to your best treatment. What do you think?
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