Court denies drugs to terminally ill

Did you know that if you’re terminally ill, you don’t have the right to try whatever drugs are out there in an attempt to save, prolong, or at the least improve the quality of your life?

A US appeals court ruled yesterday saying essentially this exact thing – if there is a drug being developed, but is not yet approved by the FDA (usually it is in limited clinical trials), you may not get access to the drug, despite the fact that you are already dying. Says Judge Thomas Griffith:

“The FDA’s policy of limiting access to investigational drugs is rationally related to the legitimate state interest of protecting patients, including the terminally ill, from potentially unsafe drugs with unknown therapeutic effects.”

Do I really need to point out the obvious? They’re terminally ill! They’re going to die anyway! If they want to take a risk, even if the odds of recovery or therapeutc benefit are small, they should be able to. What right does the government have to tell people what they can or cannot put in their body? Do they really have the right to tell people they can’t try and save their own life?

One of the groups who took the case to court (and will subsequently be filing an appeal to the Supreme Court) is the “Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs.” Abigail Burroughs was a college student diagnosed with head and neck cancer, who, after exhasting all available therapies, tried to obtain the drugs Iressa and Erbitux in a last ditch effort to save her life. The problem was that those two drugs were being tested in a clinical trial – one that she did not qualify for because her cancer was not the type it was being tested on. She died, and the drugs ended up getting approved 2-3 years later – Erbitux has since been shown to prolong lives of patients with Abigail’s cancer. From the Abigail Alliance website:

“Every drug for cancer and other serious life-threatening illnesses that the Abigail Alliance has pushed for earlier access to in our five and a half year history is now approved by the FDA! Many lives could have been saved or extended, if there had been earlier access to these drugs!”

Obviously we’ll never know whether that drug would have helped Abigail, but she should have been given the option to try it anyway.

2 of the 10 judges disagreed with the ruling, including Judge Judith Rogers who wrote:

“there is no logic to be found … in the conclusion that the right to save one’s life is unprotected” by the Constitution.

Needless to say, I completely agree. I wonder how the 8 majority-judges’ opinions would change if they were terminally ill? For more information on the nonprofit group Abigail’s father founded after her death, go to




  1. August 8, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    […] case to see what else the dissenting judges had to say (this is in reference to my previous post here, on the US appeals court denying terminally ill patients access to experimental drugs). Here is […]

  2. dianarn said,

    August 8, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    You’re don’t have the right to die if you want and you don’t have the right to live if you want, and the rest of the time is spent taking pills that kill you slowly enough to make you think you’re still alive. There’s something terribly wrong with this picture…

  3. October 10, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    […] care, Law, Personal Liberty, Unnecessary Regulation) In a follow-up to my previous discussion (part I, part II, part III), regarding the August 6th court decision which said that terminally ill […]

  4. Bryan said,

    August 15, 2014 at 12:18 am

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