Patrick Ishmael

In 2014, Missouri became the third state to enact a Right to Try law. The legislation, pioneered by the Goldwater Institute in Arizona, empowered terminally ill patients to take control over their care options by allowing them access to experimental medications without undue interference from state government. As I wrote in Forbes at the time, "Right to Try does not attempt to supersede or nullify federal laws in this area. It only clears the way from the state's perspective for RTT treatments to move forward." It was a common-sense law that we testified in support of and were delighted to see passed.

Well, the RTT movement has expanded since then. Today over thirty states have already enacted the law, and it looks like federal officials may be following suit very soon.

More than a year after his wife, Trickett Wendler, died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), [Tim Wendler] is giving voice to a congressional bill in her name.
The Trickett Wendler Right to Try Act, authored by Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, would allow terminally ill patients to receive experimental drugs — which have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration — and where no alternative exists. There is a companion bill in the House.
With 40 Republicans and two Democrats co-sponsoring the legislation, Johnson plans to try to get the measure passed by unanimous consent, perhaps as early as Wednesday. The parliamentary maneuver is unlikely to succeed, since a single senator can block the request. But the issue probably won't fade away.

Indeed it hasn't. With a new Congress, bipartisan support, and a potentially supportive President, the prospects for a federal RTT statute passing are as good as they have ever been. If it does pass, it will be a win for patients across the country seeking greater control in the most precarious health situations imaginable. As we've said many times before, government should let people help their fellow Americans on terms largely or entirely unencumbered by state or federal bureaucracies. Right to Try laws are fundamentally designed to advance that end -- and to offer hope to the most vulnerable among us. 

It isn't clear when the federal Right to Try law is going to be debated and voted on this year. We'll update you as the legislation goes through the process.

About the Author

Patrick Ishmael

Patrick Ishmael is the director of government accountability at the Show-Me Institute.