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Michigan will give terminally ill patients the right to try experimental treatments

Oct 17, 2014

Two new laws will give terminally ill patients in Michigan a right to try experimental medicines.

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The bills signed by the governor today don’t guarantee dying Michiganders will get access to experimental drugs, but they are intended to remove some barriers.

“Allowing Michiganders dealing with extremely difficult medical situations to try alternative treatment options could extend or save their lives,” says Gov. Rick Snyder. 

If a patient has exhausted all other options, the right-to-try laws would allow them access to unproven drugs and medical devices.

Doctors would not be required to prescribe the experimental treatment nor would insurance companies have to pay for it.

Last month, a state legislative committee heard from Terry Kalley, whose wife is battling cancer.

Terry Kalley testifying before the state House Health Policy committee last month
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

“Denying a person the right to access drugs that might save their own life flies in the face of our due process rights embedded in the Constitution,” Kalley told the committee.

Critics complain the laws only create “false hope” for patients.

“We know we are talking about a pool of patients for whom the side effect of not taking one of these medications is certain. And that’s death,” Lucy Caldwell told the same committee last month.   Caldwell is with the Goldwater Institute, which has been lobbying state governments to pass right-to-try laws. 

A handful of other states have passed similar legislation.