Madison (WKOW) -- A number of state legislators from both parties want people with terminal illnesses to have access to a certain class of experimental drugs that have not been cleared for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but have gone through the first phase of clinical trials.
"If somebody has a death sentence from their doctor, they should be able to try any means possible to survive," said Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc), who is co-sponsoring the so-called "Right To Try" legislation.
More than 60 lawmakers have signed on to the bill formally introduced last Friday.
Gilda's Club Madison Executive Director Lannia Stenz understands the desire to see such legislation passed.
"I personally lost a mother to pancreatic cancer as well, and I saw how challenging it was in her last days," said Stenz, who oversees the local office of the nationwide cancer support group for families.
Stenz's mother, Pat Syren, survived 18 months before succumbing to the disease at age 68.
"When you learn that end of life is potentially very near, you want to do whatever you can to survive and/or keep your loved ones in your life," said Stenz.
That's why Rep. Kleefisch wants to give patients every medical option possible.
"When someone is dying of a terminal illness, there may be some investigation drug or some type of therapy that can help them," said Rep. Kleefisch. "Who should we - as the government - be to stand in the way of them trying anything they can to survive?"
33 states already have Right To Try laws on the books and Rep. Kleefisch believes Wisconsin is lagging behind for no good reason.
While Stenz would have liked her mom to have the chance to try an experimental drug personally - professionally Gilda's Club Madison is still weighing the pros and cons of the legislation.
"We want to make sure that when people take advantage of therapies that they are vetted and that they can have quality of life throughout the end of life, because often times - when they're not fully vetted - you don't know what the side effects will be," said Stenz.
That is one of the reasons the Wisconsin Medical Society is registered against the bill.
"Physicians believe scientific studies are very important to ensure a potential medicine's safety and effectiveness. Right To Try specifically circumvents this scientific process, which could mean not only that the patient might get zero relief from the drug, but that he or she actually may suffer from more unforeseen side effects. Right to Try also could delay rigorous, controlled scientific studies of a new drug - ironically delaying progress toward discovering breakthrough medicines," wrote Barbara A. Hummel, M.D. - President of the Wisconsin Medical Society.
*The video version of this story erroneously credits Kendi Parvin with the Wisconsin Medical Society quote. It is from Dr. Barbara A. Hummel, M.D.