From WSJ: “It’s Yes to Right-to-Die but No to Right-to-Try”

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The Wall Street Journal recently ran a Letter to the Editor that we cannot re-read enough.

This is the fundamental problem with the assisted suicide debate here in Maryland and in so many places around the world; we aren’t having the full conversation.

The brief letter is full of excellent passages, and we encourage you take a moment to read, but that title says it all.  We need to be willing to give people real improvements in end-of-life care, not simply finding a way to circumvent the process.

The writer’s main point regards the legislation for assisted suicide in California, and notes the numerous attempts by other states to allow patients access to treatments that have not undergone multiyear FDA trials for dosing and efficacy.  This is the fundamental contrast.

The phrase “Right to Try” is a rhetorical tool, but digging into the desire for advancing treatments and improving end-of-life care is a very real task…a task that we have to try.  We need to continue to press forward on innovative treatments – not just capitulate to healthcare’s toughest challenges.  Right now, we are facing a concerted effort to look away from those challenges.  This is an unacceptable turn of events.  We won’t let that happen.

Our cause is undeniably difficult, but we are working to help those with the incomparably greater challenge of debilitating health problems.

This is our task, and we need to press forward.

Article Text:

It’s Yes to Right-to-Die but No to Right-to-Try

Terminally ill citizens of the Golden State have the humane right to take drugs that kill them, but not to take drugs that may prolong their lives.

Dec. 10, 2015 6:06 p.m. ET

Darcy Olsen’s “Winning the Right to Save Your Own Life” (op-ed, Nov. 27) presents compelling arguments for granting terminally ill patients access to promising drugs before those drugs have completed all phases of Food and Drug Administration testing. Ms. Olsen notes that two dozen states recently have passed “right-to-try” laws that allow the terminally ill to use drugs that show positive results in Phase I clinical safety trials, but have not yet finished multiyear FDA trials for dosing and efficacy. Denial of access to promising drugs that pass Phase I is, in effect, a death sentence for many.

Ms. Olsen wraps up her appeal for right-to-try laws and FDA acquiescence by citing California Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of a right-to-try bill in October—less than a week after he signed a right-to-die bill into law. So, terminally ill citizens of the Golden State have the humane right to take drugs that kill them, but not to take drugs that may prolong their lives. As an aside, most blue states find any drugs that might be used for death-row executions to be inhumane. Support of right-to-die and opposition to right-to-try is a combination symptomatic of a sick society. At any rate, if you are terminally ill in the Golden State and want to try to live as long as possible, head to the Lone Star state while you can.

John Gardner

Austin, Texas

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