On the first night of this year’s Republican National Convention, a cancer survivor from California named Natalie Harp essentially accused Democrats of trying to kill her — and credited President Trump with saving her life.
“I was told I was a burden to my family and to my country — and that by choosing to die early, I’d actually be saving the lives of others by preserving resources for them rather than wasting them on a lost cause like myself,” said Harp, a member of the advisory board for Trump’s reelection campaign. “They didn’t give me the right-to-try experimental treatments, Mr. President. You did. And without you, I’d have died waiting for them to be approved.”
The facts of Harp’s case are tragic. Not only does she suffer from a rare form of bone cancer; in 2015 she was nearly killed when a nurse mistakenly put “sterile water” in her IV instead of saline. At first, Harp says, she was offered only palliative care. But in 2018 Trump signed a federal “right-to-try” bill into law, creating a uniform system for terminal patients seeking access to experimental treatments before they’ve been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Harp says she was then able to access an investigational immunotherapy drug — and her health improved. Ever since, she has been speaking out on the president’s behalf.
“The Democrats love to talk about health care being a human right,” Harp said Monday. “But a right to what? Well, I’ll tell you. To them, it’s a right to marijuana, opioids, and the right to die with ‘dignity’ — a politically correct way of saying ‘give up,’ at best, and at worst, assisted suicide.”
Harp’s remarks were meant to rebut two of the themes that Democratic nominee Joe Biden has put at the center of his campaign against Trump: first, that Trump wants to repeal Obamacare, which has provided health insurance to 20 million Americans, and second, that he has botched the national response to COVID-19, which has killed more than 170,000 Americans.
The federal right-to-try law has had a much smaller impact. According to a 2019 analysis in the Washington Post, “scholars and reporters looking for evidence of its effectiveness have turned up only a small number of people who have used the law to obtain treatment.”
The reason? “Both before and after passage of Right to Try, the main barrier to patients getting experimental treatments hasn’t been the government,” wrote health sciences professor Jeremy Snyder. “It’s been drug companies.”
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