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Examining right to try practices
  1. Leslie Jasmine Morgan1,
  2. Michelle T Pham2
  1. 1College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA
  2. 2Center for Bioethics and Social Justice, Department of Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Michelle T Pham, Center for Bioethics and Social Justice, Department of Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, USA; phammic5{at}

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In ‘Discrimination Against the Dying’, Phillip Reed argues that terminally ill patients are subjected to a distinct form of discrimination called ‘terminalism’. One of Reed’s primary examples of terminalism is right to try laws, which offer terminally ill patients the option to request medications that are not FDA-approved and without IRB involvement. In this analysis, we consider additional contextual factors about right to try, suggesting that it may not neatly count as an exemplar of terminalism. When pursued with appropriate protocols and oversight, right to try has the potential to broaden treatment opportunities for the terminally ill by bypassing FDA and IRB restrictions, functioning as a less stringent alternative to expanded access for patients with limited time and dwindling options.

Reed acknowledges that differential treatment of patients is not inherently unjust. For instance, Reed praises expanded access laws that grant patients with severe or life-threatening diseases access to treatment options otherwise unavailable. Patients not afflicted by severe illness or who have found success with standard treatment options are unlikely to face discrimination for inability to access nonessential treatment. Conversely, availability of these treatments for the terminally ill could enhance their well-being and prolong their lifespan. It is also significant to highlight important …

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  • Contributors LJM and MTP are both author contributors. Morgan is the first author and Pham is the senior author.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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