Pretend for a moment that you or a loved one is diagnosed with Ebola and the virus proceeds to a point where death is not simply a possibility but likely. Would you be happy simply to mark time until the inevitable takes hold? Or would you want as many options as possible, even knowing full well most will fail?
If we start having more conversations about the ways in which medical regulations need to change—and need to respect individual patient desires—we might be able to add an upside to Ebola's arrival in the United States.
My latest Daily Beast column argues that the arrival of Ebola in America should encourage "a conversation about the regulations surrounding the development of new drugs and the right of terminal patients to experiment with their own bodies."
Ebola in the United States may well accelerate adoption of so-called right-to-try laws. These radical laws allow terminally ill patients access to drugs, devices, and treatments that haven't yet been fully approved by the Federal Drug Administration and other medical authorities. The patients and their estates agree not to bring legal action against caregivers, pharmaceutical companies, and insurers.
You don't have to be a doctrinaire libertarian—though it helps—to see the value in letting people with nothing left to lose experiment on themselves. They may get a new lease on life. The rest of us get meaningful information that may speed up the development of the next great medical intervention.