January 19, 2022

All of us at the Goldwater Institute are mourning the loss of a dear friend, Tracy “Gypsy” Beach of Tucson, Arizona, who passed away this week at the age of 50 after a battle with cancer. We extend our deepest condolences to Tracy’s husband, David, her three children, all of her family and friends, and everyone who is suffering this loss.

Remembered as a woman who lived for other people, Tracy was a tireless advocate for Right to Try, a Goldwater reform that protects terminally ill patients’ right to try medicines that have not yet been approved by the federal government for market. Tracy’s diligent advocacy for Right to Try was inspired by her mother, Toni, who succumbed to breast cancer in 2011 after no longer being able to access the best available medicine.

In 2009, Toni’s doctor told her about a then-experimental drug treatment called T-DM1 that was being tested in a clinical trial in Redlands, California. “T-DM1 was different, people were surviving years,” Tracy recalled five years ago. Toni was able to participate in the trial, but she had to drive eight hours every few weeks to receive treatment in Redlands, as opposed to getting it in her home of Tucson.

With little money left to travel and the disease quickly weakening her, her mother could no longer make the trips. Right to Try would have allowed Tracy’s mom to get the medicine without the hurdles to jump through.

Tracy would go on to advocate for reforms that protect terminally ill patients’ right to obtain cutting-edge treatments without asking the government for permission first. “You have to have hope,” said Tracy, who testified in favor of Right to Try before the Arizona Legislature in 2014. “If you’ve gone through everything and there’s nothing left, there is no reason not to try.”

“It’s about the option,” she also pointed out. “Why would you oppose somebody wanting to choose something over just laying down and dying?”

Thanks in large part to the advocacy of Tracy and others affected by life-threatening illnesses, Right to Try became federal law in 2018. Tracy’s advocacy helped open the door for patients like Matt Bellina, a former U.S. Navy pilot diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), to receive an investigational treatment under the Right to Try federal law. Within weeks of receiving the treatment in January 2019, Matt was able to breathe more easily and even pull himself to standing from his wheelchair.

Matt is far from alone. He’s just one of many patients who have been able to live fuller, longer lives thanks to the reforms that Tracy fought for. Put simply, her diligent, early work in support of Right to Try is saving lives today.

Goldwater is forever grateful for Tracy’s friendship and her advocacy. In her memory, we pledge to carry out the fight for patients’ rights.

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