New law will let terminally ill Minnesotans try experimental treatments


Minnesotans fighting terminal health conditions will soon be able to add experimental treatments to their arsenal.

Gov. Mark Dayton says he'll sign a measure called the "Right to Try" bill, which passed the state legislature with overwhelming support Friday.

As the Pioneer Press reports, the bill gives terminally ill patients access to drugs and medical devices that have not yet been fully approved by federal regulators.

The unapproved treatments would need to be used under a doctor's supervision and could occur only after exhausting all of the available treatments that are approved.

The bill was approved unanimously by the Minnesota House after a passionate speech by Rep. Nick Zerwas, who spoke with WCCO about the experimental heart surgery that helped save his life when he was a teenager.

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Zerwas, an Elk River Republican, was born with a heart with only three chambers, instead of four. Doctors doubted Zerwas would live to adulthood.

A page at the American Heart Association website recaps Zerwas' perseverance against his heart problems, including 10 open heart surgeries.

Five of those surgeries, he tells WCCO were experimental. The first occurred when Zerwas was just seven, the last when he was planning his own funeral at age 15.

Its effectiveness allowed him to see his colleagues approve Right to Try legislation Friday.

WCCO says 15 other states have similar laws. Other bills are pending in states including Nevada, Wyoming, and Alabama.

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