You would think it would be common sense: Decisions about medical treatment should be up to patients, not bureaucrats. But federal law creates unacceptable barriers preventing terminally ill patients from exercising their right to try potentially lifesaving medications.

Fortunately, 38 states have taken action to protect that right by enacting Right to Try laws. Though a federal version of the Right to Try law narrowly failed to pass the U.S. House this week, that’s not the last word on the issue—not even by a long shot. The Wisconsin Legislature just sent a Right to Try bill to the governor for his signature, other states are considering adopting the legislation, and leaders in Washington are still committed to taking action. In fact, the U.S. Senate passed a Right to Try bill unanimously last year

In today’s Arizona Republic, Goldwater Institute Executive Vice President Christina Sandefur writes about why Right to Try laws are so critical—and how they one day could save your life:

“Give me liberty or give me death” isn’t just a slogan for the many Americans diagnosed with a terminal illness each year. It’s reality.

Every day, every hour, counts for them. But the process by which the federal Food and Drug Administration approves medicines and treatments takes an average of 14 years, and during that time, patients are, with a tiny number of exceptions, legally barred from using medicines that could save their lives — medicines the FDA has deemed safe and that it is giving people in clinical trials.

The Right to Try movement was born to change this cruel reality. Alongside patients, doctors and policymakers nationwide, the Goldwater Institute crafted a new approach, a state-law reform that allows ill Americans to seek investigational treatments when they’re out of other options.

Right to Try’s success has been spectacular. In just five years, Right to Try bills have been introduced in every state, and 38 have adopted it, including Arizona, where voters passed it overwhelmingly in 2014. The Wisconsin Legislature just sent a bill to the governor for his signature.

They’ve done so in a bipartisan fashion. It’s never been about Republicans or Democrats. It’s always been about principles. And that’s why it’s been a true grassroots movement.

Sandefur explains that support for the Right to Try movement is continuing to grow, and that’s because the law works.

Right to Try laws are helping patients across the country. When federal rules prohibited Houston Doctor Ebrahim Delpassand from treating cancer patients with a medicine that had already completed three rounds of FDA testing and has been available in Europe for years, he invoked Texas’s Right to Try law and treated more than 100 patients.

Many had been told they had only months to live, but they are still alive today.

Right to Try is all about empowering patients, giving families hope, and saving lives for people who are out of time.  It’s based on the principle that each person owns his or her own life. That’s why 38 states have enacted Right to Try. It’s why other states are working to enact the law, too. It’s why the U.S. Senate passed the law unanimously. And it’s why Right to Try will certainly become the law of the land all across the United States.

Read more in The Arizona Republic.

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