California Governor Denies Terminally Ill Access to Potentially Life-Saving Drugs

Veto follows Jerry Brown’s signing assisted suicide legislation

October 12, 2015

Californians who are terminally ill will not be able to access drugs with the potential to save or prolong their lives as a result of Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of the Right to Try Act on Sunday.

AB 159, the California Right to Try Act, passed the state assembly and senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.

'It’s disappointing that Governor Brown couldn’t see the need to allow Californians the right to fight to save their own lives," said Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D., Whittier), who sponsored the legislation. 'Both Democrats and Republicans wanted this for our California’s terminally ill."

In his veto message Brown wrote that 'Patients with life-threatening conditions should be able to try experimental drugs, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s compassion use program allows this to happen."

'Before authorizing an alternative state pathway, we should give this federal expedited process a chance to work," Brown wrote.

However, the expedited process by the FDA has not yet been put in place.

'Time is the one thing our terminally ill don’t have," said Calderon. 'I wish he would have given terminally ill Californians the hope of having more time to spend with their families by allowing them expedited access to potentially life-saving drugs."

Brown’s veto of the act was a disappointment to many, including one firefighter suffering from ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

'I am very disappointed in Governor Brown's devastating veto of The Right to Try bill. This allows the FDA to retain control over my ability to save my own life while I still have time," said Mike DeBartoli, a former Sacramento firefighter suffering from ALS.

'Terminal patients in California now have no possibility of hope to prolong their lives," DeBartoli said.

The Right to Try, some version of which has been adopted in 24 states, was envisioned by the Goldwater Institute, a public policy think tank based in Phoenix.

'Governor Brown has deprived Californians of the right to try to save their lives when their mortality hangs in the balance. We hope that the legislature will work together in a bipartisan effort to override Governor Brown’s veto," said Kurt Altman, director of national affairs and special counsel at the institute.

Brown’s veto of the Right to Try comes a week after he signed into law a bill allowing terminally ill Californians access to drugs to expedite their deaths. The End of Life Act will go into effect next year.

'When Governor Brown signed a 'Right to Die" law just days ago, he said ‘I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.’ It’s ironic that Governor Brown supports the right to die but not the right to try to live," said Altman.

Right To Try is limited to patients with a terminal disease who have exhausted all government-approved treatment options and who cannot enroll in a clinical trial. Medications available under the law must have successfully completed basic safety testing and be a part of the FDA’s ongoing approval process.