COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – Back in October, there was a funeral in Georgia for a very special man.
His passing didn’t make the news, but it should have.
The man was Ted Harada and he was both a hero and a medical pioneer.
Ted was 38 in 2010 when doctors told him he had Lou Gehrig’s disease, a brutal terminal illness that robs patients of the ability to control their muscles.
Eventually, they can’t swallow, or breathe and they die.
With nothing to lose, Ted wanted to try experimental stem cell injections in a last-ditch treatment designed at the Emory ALS Center.
It worked and his symptoms receded. In fact, the cutting-edge treatment kept his ALS in remission for 6 years.
Unfortunately, he died of an unrelated brain tumor.
But before he died, Ted Harada campaigned for Georgia’s “right to try” law and Governor Deal signed it into law.
Alabama also passed the right to try law.
The law allows terminally ill patients to get access to risky treatments being used in clinical trials.
But even though 28 states have passed “right to try” laws, the federal Food and Drug Administration still makes it almost impossible for most of those dying patients to truly exercise their “right to try”.
“Right to try, ” advocates say the FDA’s complicated process allowing experimental treatment results in only about one thousand people a year getting the chance to extend their lives.
Most of the terminally ill who want to try these treatments die waiting for an answer from the FDA.
Ted Harada’s story should motivate us to ask our lawmakers to demand reforms at the FDA.
The process needs to be streamlined and fast-tracked to make it easier for terminally ill patients who are willing to try untested treatments.
The right to try law should move from symbolic victory to reality as soon as possible because even the riskiest medical option is worth a shot to those patients with nothing to lose.
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