So-called "Right to Try" legislation took another major step toward reality Thursday afternoon, when the Idaho Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted unanimously to approve House Bill 481.
"I know that John Knudsen would like to be here this afternoon. But he's bed ridden," said Rep. Melissa Wintrow (D-Boise), who has been carrying the legislation since meeting with Knudsen earlier this year.
Wintrow noted Knudsen
was monitoring the hearing online as she read a letter from him to members of the Health and Welfare Committee.
"Hello, my name is John Knudsen and I have ALS," wrote Knudsen, who before he was diagnosed with the motor neuron degenerative disease was an active outdoorsman and law enforcement officer in Alaska. "I was given the death sentence six years ago."
Knudsen asked Wintrow to push for Right to Try legislation, already passed by 24 other states, which gives patients who have received a fatal diagnosis the right to ask a physician for permission to access drugs that have already passed initial testing by the Food and Drug Administration but not been fully approved.
"[T]he next steps of approval can some take eight to 10 years. Often it takes 15 years," said
Kurt Altman, legal counsel for the Arizona-based conservative Goldwater Institute think tank, which helped sponsor the legislation. "This is called 'Right to Try,' not "Right to Cure.' Patients understand the chances and the risks. And patients want to have some sense of control."
Altman and Wintrow faced a number of questions from members of the committee, but ultimately both Republican and Democratic members voted to send the measure to the full Idaho Senate with a "do pass" recommendation.
The bill was already approved by a wide margin of the Idaho House
, meaning Idaho's Right to Try legislation is only one step away from landing on the desk of Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter.