Idaho Senate Votes to Approve 'Right to Try,' Bill Now Heads to the Governor 

click to enlarge John Knudsen wrote to the Idaho Legislature in Feb. 2015: "I was given the death sentence five years ago. - GEORGE PRENTICE
  • George Prentice
  • John Knudsen wrote to the Idaho Legislature in Feb. 2015: "I was given the death sentence five years ago.


Sitting in his Boise home, John Knudsen watched a video feed of the Idaho State Senate late Monday as lawmakers approved House Bill 481, the so-called "Right to Try" measure that he brought to the Legislature's attention in an email.

"Hello, my name is John Knudsen and I have ALS," Knudsen wrote to legislators in 2015. "I was given the death sentence five years ago."

Rep. Melissa Wintrow (D-Boise) took up Knudsen's cause, crafting the Right to Try legislation, 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.

Wintrow successfully negotiated the bill through the Idaho House in late February and, on March 14, Wintrow's colleague, Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb (D-Boise), stood before the Idaho Senate and asked its members for their support.

"Nearly 1 million Americans die each year of a terminal illness," said Buckner-Webb. "This bill gives them a shot at life."

To date, 24 states have passed similar Right to Try legislation, and Idaho would become the 25th if Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signs the measure into law. It turns out Knudsen has some personal history with the governor.

"I know Butch," Knudsen told Boise Weekly. "After I retired, I used to help out a bit on Butch's farm. I would think he would remember me."

Moments after the Idaho Senate passed HB 481, Wintrow told BW she emailed Knudsen with the good news. 

"It just needs the governor's signature now," she said.
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