Giving Patients a “Right to Try” Is the Right Move

June 11, 2018

by Terry Schilling


This article is part of a series focusing on Lens of Liberty, a project of the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation.

Government regulation is often imposed in the name of consumer protection. All too often, however, it backfires and ends up hurting the very consumer it intended to protect. In her Liberty Minute titled “Freedom Without Borders,” Helen Krieble discusses one instance of a regulation hurting the consumer:

A charitable group called Remote Area Medical was set up in Tennessee to provide free healthcare to poor patients across the country. They found out the state had an old law prohibiting out-of-state doctors from helping Tennessee patients. But the group looked through the lens of liberty, got involved with the legislature, and changed the law.

They also worked with other groups in other states and changed a number of similar laws elsewhere. They got government out of the way of patients and the doctors who wanted to help them. Today, the organization crosses lots of borders in its mission to help the needy. It also provides an excellent example of what a group of people dedicated to freedom and committed to helping others can accomplish.

Sadly, the government hurting patients through nonsensical regulations is not unique to Tennessee. The federal government has been heavily involved in the medical industry, often for worse rather than for better. One inexplicable example of this is the Food and Drug Administration blocking patients’ “right to try.”

A “right to try” law is one that allows incurable and dying patients the right to try experimental medicines that have passed initial FDA testing. Unfortunately, the FDA has regularly been a hindrance to patients who have wanted to attempt experimental treatment, putting them through a complex process that requires doctors to spend hundreds of hours completing paperwork just to help the patient. Although this process may have initially been intended well, to address the serious concern that some doctors might force dying patients to try the archaic experimental drugs for the sole benefit of the researchers, modern medicine has the promise and potential to save many more lives.

Fortunately, 40 states have passed “right to try” laws since 2014, and President Trump recently signed a federal bill into law, reaffirming his administration’s support for the measure. The legislation largely had bipartisan support, though Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) attempted to stall the bill.

Political leaders must continue to look through the lens of liberty and identify regulations that hurt consumers, particularly in the healthcare arena. Harmful regulation may not only negatively impact jobs and livelihoods, but can also cost lives. While it is important that consumers be protected from potentially dangerous, untested medical treatment, it is equally important that they have access to possibly life-saving medicines when all else has failed. Ultimately, all regulations must be at the service of human life — and not a hindrance to preserving it.


Terry Schilling is executive director of the American Principles Project.

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