Trying and Dying: Are Some Wishes at the End of Life Better?

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Independent In 2015, both chambers of the US Congress considered two legislative proposals related to care at the end of life. One proposal passed the House of Representatives as part of a larger package, and this proposal paralleled a “right to try” movement. The other proposal failed to be amended into a larger package being debated by the Senate, and this proposal would have assisted in advance care planning efforts with seniors.

While these two pieces of legislations are unrelated, it is striking how easily the “right to try” passed as part of a larger bill while at the same time, a very modest proposal on the periphery of the “right to die” debate did not. And in state legislatures across the nation, such efforts are even more dramatic: “right to try” bills have passed in several states while “right to die” proposals have not seen even a fraction of the same success.

This debate says a lot not only about our politics but also our policies around end-of-life decision-making. While we want a society that values life, we also want a society that empowers individuals to make their own decisions, particularly about their health and well-being.


This paper was published in the Rutgers Journal of Bioethics, available at http://eden.rutgers.edu/~bioeth/pdf/RJB7.pdf vol. 7, Spring 2016.