Right to try vs. right to die

Courtesy // Tiffany McGaughey

Within the last few weeks, California Governor Jerry Brown has seen a plethora of bills on his desk. Two of these bills were in regards to terminally ill patients, titled the “Right to Die” and “Right to Try” bills.
The “Right to Die” bill gives terminally ill patients the ability to request doctor-assisted suicide if they have six or less months to live. They must be told by two different doctors that they have less than six months to live, be in a state of full mental capacity and submit a written request and two oral requests at least 15 days apart to make this decision.
The “Right to Try” bill would allow terminally ill patients to try potentially life-saving drugs unregulated by the FDA. The drugs would have to be administered by a doctor. Both of these bills passed through the California Congress, but only one made it off Gov. Brown’s desk.
The “Right to Die” bill has been signed into law, while the “Right to Try” bill was vetoed. There are many reasons to support the “Right to Die” bill, however as a supporter of both bills, I can’t ignore the blatant hypocrisy in having one bill without the other.
Why is a patient being handed the kill switch but not the opportunity to try to save their lives? The logic is a bit askew.
One possible explanation is the booming business the pharmaceutical industry has become. According to Statista, the total nominal spending on medicine in the United States in 2014 was $374 Billion. This number has nearly doubled in the last 12 years: in 2002, the total nominal spending in the U.S. was $195 Billion. Are there simply more sick people? No. Pharmacies have become profit centers. Every ailment is now met with a prescription, whether the patient needs it or not. So why would this big business be against “right to try”?
Simply put, if the drugs are not regulated by the FDA, they are unlikely to be developed by any of the industry’s main contenders, thus being bad for profits. Why should the drug industry spend money looking for a cure when they can keep pushing the ever-expensive treatments, such as chemotherapy (which only has a 2.1 percent success rate), and now a predictably expensive suicide drug?
It’s reasonable to support the“Right to Die” bill. Many terminal illnesses degenerate the body in a rapid and painful manner. If there is no other choice, a patient with their conscious still about them should have the right to make that call.
The stress on family members watching their loved one slowly devolve, the cost of life support and constant hospitalization and the sheer pain the patient is going through are all reasons why this option should be available.
I speak from experience; my great grandmother is extremely ill. She was prescribed a blood thinner for a minor problem, however, the doctors didn’t adjust the dosage as she lost weight. Due to this her blood was so thin a minor fall seriously hospitalized her.
It has been an uphill battle from there, she has been suffering from internal bleeding to the point where she is on so many pain medications that she has basically become a vegetable. The doctors claim that she is so frail that there is nothing they can do for the fractures but give her more pain medications. At this point, they are just waiting for something worse to come along and end it. They haven’t officially said she has less than six months to live, but they might as well have.
This struggle of watching a loved one lose themselves to a one-sided battle is one of the worst feelings one can experience. We all love Nana and want to spend as much time with her as possible, but watching her slowly die is unbearable.
While the “Right to Die” bill is a step in the right direction, telling the terminally ill that their only choices are to suffer and die or die swiftly is not fair when there could be a hidden life saver. We should have both, not one or the other. The terminally ill should be given the opportunity to try when help is available, but make the decision for themselves when painful death is inevitable.