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“Right To Try” One Step Closer To Passage

Updated: Apr 13

A bill that would allow terminally-ill Arkansans to have the

“right to try” experimental drugs and treatments came one step closer to becoming law Wednesday. Sen. John Cooper, who introduced the bill, said:

Arkansas would be the sixth state to adopt this legislation and its known as the Right To Try Act. Basically, what “right to try” means is that the patient who is terminally ill should have the right to try to save their life through accessing experimental drugs or treatments. It’s a life-saving measure and I’m absolutely convinced that over time this is going to save lives. There are cases every year that get wrapped up in some sort of bureaucracy and this will make that easier and simpler.

Both Sen. Stephanie Flowers and Sen. David Sanders voiced concerns about a provision in the bill that required the patient give “informed consent” to receive an experimental drug or treatment through this bill. They apparently thought the bill should specifically define “informed consent,” even though the concept already pervades Arkansas law. Flowers asked:

It talks about informed consent. Have we defined the information that is given for consent?


I wonder if you would be open to language that would make you put a little more teeth into what they have to disclose (regarding informed consent).

Ultimately, these objections weren’t enough to stop the bill from passing out of the House Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee. The only votes not in favor of the bill came from Flowers (who voted against) and Sanders (who didn’t vote). Four Republicans and one Democrat voted in favor of the bill. Dan Greenberg, Advance Arkansas Institute President, said of the “informed consent” concerns:

This is an unusual concern, because the precise nature of the informed consent that one would require for a large class or group of varying medications would be difficult or impossible to specify in advance. Under Arkansas law, informed consent is generally going to be written acknowledgment of the risks, benefits, and alternatives of some particular medical procedure; to the extent that informed consent is defined in the state code, it typically is defined as what’s immediately above and the definition isn’t more than a sentence long.  That is what informed consent means, and spelling out a new version of informed consent in statute for a broad class of procedures when we’re unsure what the procedures are would likely invite more problems than it solves.

Hilariously, Flowers also veered towards a “reductio ad cannabis” argument during the committee. I will paraphrase her argument as follows: “because this bill opens the door for terminally-ill patients to receive experimental drugs or treatments, therefore this bill will allow people to get their hands on pot.” During the hearing, Cooper said repeatedly that the bill doesn’t allow for access to cannabis. He’s probably right on this point: as he noted, cannabis is typically alleged to cure problems of pain or nausea, which are not the life-threatening conditions that the bill identifies. I also tend to believe Cooper because a well-known pro-cannabis activist was on hand at the committee to speak against the bill due to … wait for it … the bill doesn’t allow for access to cannabis! In other legislative news today, the Senate Revenue and Tax committee unanimously passed Asa Hutchinson’s income tax relief bill with bipartisan acclaim.

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