Life and Death Lunacy in the Golden State

Less than two weeks ago, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill making it legal for terminally ill Golden State residents to kill themselves with medical help, provided that two doctors certify that they have less than six months to live. This week, he vetoed a measure that would have granted those same kind of patients access to experimental drugs that could save their lives. The San Jose Mercury News reports:

Despite his landmark decision last week to grant terminally ill patients the right to end their lives with a doctor’s help, Gov. Jerry Brown took a different course on Sunday and rejected Assembly Bill 159, the so-called “Right To Try” bill. The latter measure sought to allow terminally ill patients who have exhausted all other options to access experimental drugs, products or devices that have not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Patients with life threatening conditions should be able to try experimental drugs, and the United States Food and Drug Administration’s compassionate use program allows this to happen,” Brown wrote in a signing message to lawmakers. “Before authorizing an alternative state pathway, we should give this federal expedited process a chance to work.”

But proponents of the measure — adopted so far in 24 states, most recently in Oregon in August — seemed stunned by the announcement.

The nation’s trend toward individualism—the gradual weakening of external constraints on freedom of choice—presents both opportunities and causes for concern. The proliferation of assisted suicide statutes, for example, seems likely to reshape the incentives for many sick and vulnerable people, effectively encouraging them to take their own lives. But “right to try” bills, which have seen much wider adoption than assisted suicide bills, work the opposite way: They would give people with nothing to lose the ability to bypass cumbersome FDA bureaucracy in an effort to save their lives. Gov. Jerry Brown apparently believes dying people people should be allowed to access tried-and-tested lethal drugs but not potentially therapeutic ones.

Perhaps we’re missing something, but this position seems utterly incoherent.

Features Icon
show comments
© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service