The Right To Try

Posted on May 18, 2014 | Type: Multimedia
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Everyone Deserves the Right to Try 

States should enact “Right to Try” measures to protect the fundamental right of people to try to save their own lives. Designed by the Goldwater Institute, this initiative would allow terminal patients access to investigational drugs that have completed basic safety testing, thereby dramatically reducing paperwork, wait times and bureaucracy, and, most importantly, potentially saving lives.


Patient Stories


Lorraine's Story

Lorraine Heidke-McCartin loves to run. She is currently training to run a 5K with her daughters this spring. A 5K isn't much for most runners, but for her it's the finishing stretch on a marathon that began in 2006. That was the year she was first diagnosed as a Stage IV (the most lethal and final stage) of an aggressive strain of breast cancer, HER 2. She immediately began a regimen of treatment with her doctor, undergoing rounds of chemo that sapped her energy, took her hair and gave her a great deal of pain. As her treatments progressed, so did her disease, until she had finally exhausted all of her available treatment options. She and her husband, Philip, began looking for another way to save Lorraine's life.

In 2009, their doctor returned from a conference where she had heard about an experimental treatment that could be a life saver for Lorraine, T-DM1. They reached out to the drug company conducting the trials for T-DM1 and found the closest trial to their home in Boston was in Fairfax, Va. Lorraine and Phil jumped on the opportunity and got to Virginia as soon as possible. Lorraine would end up making over 16 trips back and forth in the course of her treatment before finally being allowed by the FDA to take the drug in Boston, thanks in large part to her incredible recovery. She has been cancer free since December 2011, thanks to an experimental drug and her ability to make the regular trips to a distant trial site.


Tracy's Story

Tracy Canter lost her mother to breast cancer two years ago. Once diagnosed with the deadly disease, her mother was required to drive 8 hours to Redlands, California every couple of weeks to receive the best available medicine 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.


Mikaela's Story On Good Morning America (3/27/2014)

Mikaela Knapp and her husband Keith fought hard for her life. In order to get the drugs she thought might save her life, they needed to run a national social media campaign just to raise awareness and win support for her plight. Sadly, Mikaela died without getting the chance to try to save her own life. Right To Try would have allowed her that opportunity.


Nick's Story on Colorado Daybreak (5/16/2014)

On the eve of the first Right To Try bill signed in the country, Colorado Daybreak takes a look at the life of a father who should have had the Right To Try before it was too late.


Right To Try: Kathy's Story

​Kathleen Thompson's son Josh was diagnosed with ALS in 2007. After many promises from the FDA and much time spent working to get the necessary treatments, Josh was denied access to possibly life saving medicine, crippling this young man's ability to live.


National Coverage


Right To Try on The Kelly File (5/5/2014)

If you have a terminal illness, should you have the right to try treatments that might save your life, but are not yet officially approved by the Feds? That debate is now playing out across this country as lawmakers get behind the Right To Try act.


Goldwater Institute CEO Darcy Olsen

Discusses Right To Try with Stossel (3/27/2014) 

During John Stossel's "Government Bullies" show last Thursday on Fox Business, Goldwater Institute CEO Darcy Olsen came on to discuss Right to Try, and initiative that gives terminally ill patients access to possibly life-saving medicine.


CNBC's Street Signs talks Right To Try (5/6/2014)

The hosts of Street Signs grill University of Miami's Kenneth Goodman on the intricacies of Right To Try.



Sign Brigg's Legacy Petition for Access



Briggs Sanderson was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in 2007, and for 15 months she and her husband Paul battled her cancer. While this deadly disease took Briggs too soon, her legacy is inspiring others to call for earlier access to innovative cancer treatments and therapies.

Paul has found the support of a number of celebrities and professional athletes in his drive to highlight the desperate need for viable treatment options for terminally ill patients.

To learn more and to view Paul’s petition, visit





Daily Beast: The 'Dallas Buyers Club' Bill by Eleanor Clift (3/4/2014)
Denver Post: "Right to Try" aims to limit bureaucracy for Colorado's terminally ill by Kurtis Lee
Townhall Magazine: Every Patient Deserves the Right To Try (4/10/2014)
The Coloradoan: Right to try bill called both last chance, false hope by Pat Ferrier and Sarah Jane Kyle (4/22/2014)
Fox News Online: Lawmakers fight to cut red tape for terminally ill patients seeking experimental drugs by Jennifer Gordon (5/6/2014)
The Atlanta-Journal Constitution: Afflicted have the right to try by Ted Harada (5/9/2014)
Arizona Republic: Arizonans will vote on right-to-try drugs measure by Ken Alltucker (5/12/2014)
National Review: The Right To Try by Amity Shlaes



Policy Report
Read Full PDF Report
The Cost of FDA Approval
Model Legislation



If you're interested in reviewing model legislation or sponsoring Right To Try in your state,  please contact Craig Handzlik at the Goldwater Institute at (602) 633-8994 or


To schedule an interview with the Goldwater Institute, please contact Michael Kelley at the Goldwater Institute at (602) 633-8965 or If you are affiliated with a national network, the Goldwater Institute has an in-house VideoLink studio for rapid cable hook-up at no cost.

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