Almost 13 years after he was given a life-changing medical diagnosis, state Rep. Robert Godshall is still trying to turn his unfortunate circumstances into a lifeline for other Pennsylvanians.
The Montgomery County Republican, a bone marrow cancer survivor, is pushing legislation in the General Assembly that would allow terminally ill patients to access medical treatments or products not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Godshall’s bill, House Bill 45, would allow a manufacturer of an investigational drug, biological product or device to make an unapproved product available to terminally ill patients and open the door for patients to request a non-approved product, as long as he or she has a terminal illness and passes other requirements.
HB45 was unanimously approved by the House last week.
“If you’re terminally ill, if there’s something out there that looks good to you, take the responsibility from the medical community and put it on yourself,” said Godshall, who calls the legislation a “Right to Try” bill. “That’s all I’m asking for.”
Prior to his incurable diagnosis, Godshall didn’t know of the roadblocks terminally ill patients face when trying to get their hands on unapproved treatments. He later learned a transplant surgery was a viable option to prolong his life, but he was older than the age restriction approved for the surgery by the FDA.
But that didn’t stop Godshall.
After much convincing and filling out stacks of legal paperwork, Godshall said surgeons at the University of Pennsylvania agreed to do the procedure on the terms that he was solely responsible for the outcome.
“I decided I was going to go and do it,” he added. “It was either going to kill me or I was going to die in the next couple of months or it was going to save my life.”
Now, Godshall, who is still treating the cancer, hopes other lawmakers will take up the cause and pass his legislation to make it easier for others who may face similar circumstances.
“I don’t believe you should have to be a member of the Legislature to take responsibility, to save your life or the life of a family remember,” he said.
The Pennsylvania Medical Society hasn’t taken a position on the issue, said Chuck Moran, the organization’s spokesman. However, Godshall said certain drug companies have spoken out against such legislation.
Similar legislation has also been introduced at the federal level by U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-8th District, and has been approved by more than 30 states.
Godshall’s legislation will move on to the Senate, where it failed to come up for a vote last session after it was approved by the House.
“We look forward to reviewing the bill through our committee process when it comes over,”
said Jennifer Kocher, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre.