Court: Terminally ill have right to drugs

May 3, 2006 at 4:49 PM

WASHINGTON, May 3 (UPI) -- Terminally ill patients have a right to get experimental drugs before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives final approval, an appeals court has ruled.

Tuesday's 2-1 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington came in a case brought by the Virginia-based Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs, which sought to use drugs that have received only Phase I FDA approval, The Washington Post reported.

"Barring a terminally ill patient from the use of a potentially life saving treatment impinges on (the) right of self-preservation," the court ruled.

The court said the U.S. Supreme Court's 1990 ruling in the right-to-die case of Nancy Cruzan, a brain-dead Missouri woman, also applies.

"If there is a protected liberty interest in self-determination that includes a right to refuse life-sustaining treatment ... then the same liberty interest must include the complementary right of access to potentially life-sustaining medication," the majority wrote.

The ruling overturned a lower court's dismissal of the case and ordered a hearing on the issue.

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