Millennial Natalie Harp has battled stage two bone cancer for most of her life. To make matters worse, a medical error made in 2015 while receiving treatment left her wheelchair-bound and in constant pain. There was no known cure for her condition, and her quality of life was in quick decline.
Natalie was quickly running out of treatment options. Two rounds of chemotherapy failed to eradicate her cancer. Opioids, medical marijuana, and barbiturates were unable to relieve her pain. She was denied entry into numerous clinical trials. As her condition worsened, Natalie was also advised to consider voluntarily stopping all eating and drinking (a method commonly shorted to VSED).
Courageously, she refused, insisting, “No, I just want to get better.” Miraculously, she did.
After receiving access to experimental treatments through right-to-try legislation, Natalie’s condition improved substantially. In her own words, “I’m walking. I am healthy. I am living the quality of life that I always wanted.” She continued, “I’m not dying from cancer any more thanks to President Trump, I’m living with cancer.”
In May 2018, President Trump signed national right-to-try legislation in law. The law provides patients with terminal illnesses access to potentially lifesaving treatment options before the Food and Drug Administration fully approves them. By requiring permission from only the patient, their physician, and the drug provider to administer treatment, right-to-try laws cut the FDA out of the picture. As a consequence, patients are granted more options to prolong their lives with less regulatory barriers.
Natalie is grateful for the opportunities that right-to-try laws have provided. Before right-to-try became national law, she endured four years of being denied treatment options she hoped would help her condition. As she expressed, “it took President Trump going to Washington to be able to get that [more treatment options] for me.”
An unfortunate consequence of government involvement in healthcare is that medicine becomes more political. Despite the testimonies of patients electing to utilize right-to-try laws and being grateful for them, the laws continue to suffer from defamatory comments from political figures. Among the most common attacks are those calling the legislation “false hope” and declaring it hasn’t helped. Natalie’s inspiring conviction to keep fighting for her life, and her remarkable recovery, provide overwhelming evidence otherwise.
As long as the government remains involved in healthcare, the rights of terminally ill patients to try experimental medication to prolong their lives are at risk. Let’s hope stories like Natalie’s work to secure them. With 42 million US citizens suffering from a terminal illness or knowing someone with one, it’s a fight that affects us all.