Terminally ill patients do not have a constitutional right to be treated with experimental drugs, even if they likely will be dead before the medicine is approved, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.
The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned last year’s decision by a smaller panel of the same court, which held that terminally ill patients may not be denied access to potentially lifesaving drugs.
The full court disagreed, saying in an 8-2 ruling that it would not create a constitutional right for patients to assume “any level of risk” without regard to medical testing.
Food and Drug Administration approval of drugs generally requires extensive testing that can involve years of trials and thousands of patients.
The Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs and the Washington Legal Foundation sued the FDA in 2003, seeking access for terminally ill patients to drugs that have undergone preliminary safety testing in as few as 20 people but have yet to be approved.
Abigail Alliance founder Frank Burroughs pledged an appeal to the Supreme Court. Burroughs’ daughter, Abigail, was denied access to experimental cancer drugs and died in 2001. The drug she was seeking was approved years later.
Johnson returning to South Dakota
Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson is returning to his home state of South Dakota for the first time since suffering a life-threatening brain hemorrhage eight months ago.
The senator has been recovering at hospitals and in his Fairfax, Va., home and has not appeared in public since he fell ill. He will travel to South Dakota this month and is expected to return to the Senate in September. Johnson has been undergoing speech therapy and is expected to use a scooter to get around in the Capitol.
Redwood City, Calif.
Child doctor ordered to trial
A prominent child psychiatrist will stand trial on charges that he molested seven of his former patients, a judge ruled Tuesday, calling the evidence against the doctor “quite strong.”
Dr. William Ayres, 75, has pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of lewd and lascivious behavior on a child younger than 14 between 1988 and 1996.
Two San Mateo police investigators, who interviewed dozens of Ayres’ former patients and accusers, testified about a pattern of abuse that Ayres portrayed as routine physical exams in his office.
At least 11 men – young boys at the time – described Ayres inappropriately touching their genitals, according to testimony.
Salt Lake City
Polygamist freed from prison
A Utah polygamist was released from prison Tuesday after serving six years on a child rape conviction for having sex with a 13-year-old girl who is now his only legal wife.
Two of Tom Green’s sons – he has 32 children with 5 women – picked him up from the Utah State Prison early Tuesday, said Jack Ford, Department of Corrections spokesman.
Green was to check in with his parole officer in Provo and then would be freed, Ford said.
Green, 59, was also convicted of bigamy, a charge resulting, in part, from several appearances he made on TV talk shows promoting polygamy. Green claimed four other wives whom he married in religious ceremonies. He was also convicted of criminal nonsupport for getting thousands of dollars in state welfare payments to support his many children.