To the People

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or TO THE PEOPLE.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Tell Me How You Really Feel

Phil Maymin and I had an exchange yesterday about his "fast and completely unsubstantiated invective against the FDA" Tuesday night, which he insists was neither unsubstantiated nor invective. In defense of his statement in Greenwich Tuesday, "The FDA is very good at killing people," he cited a Ron Bailey article ("Timid Bureaucrats Kill People") and a line in a House bill (108th Congress, HR 234, Sec. 302(b)) which, in his view, would penalize Americans who traveled abroad for stem-cell treatment. Now, I don't read it that way, but regardless the bill has nothing to do with the FDA. Maymin's essential point was that individuals have a right to ingest whatever they want, and denying access to drugs undergoing clinical studies as per FDA guidelines is tantamount to withholding potential cures from dying people. If he dies because he couldn't access a drug the FDA hadn't approved, then Maymin says the FDA killed him. And it's his business and his alone if the drug, instead of curing him, kills him faster.

If only it were that simple. Let's put aside the fact that terminal patients can and often do volunteer for clinical studies (as Bailey points out in his article) and the fact that the FDA often fast-tracks drugs which show promise for terminal conditions and the fact that generally drugs in clinical trials aren't ready for wide release even by the manufacturer's standards (dosage and delivery method still being ironed out late in the game), all points that any good newspaper editorial page will raise when it puts Maymin through the meat grinder. OK, whatever -- my main point to Maymin was that wild lines like "The FDA is very good at killing people" will break him. With libertarians -- and especially LibertariansTM -- you gotta beware the Crank Factor. They're like drunks at weddings. You put a microphone in a libertarian's hand, crazy shit starts coming out of his mouth. "The FDA is killing people" is the equivalent of "The bride was always my favorite daughter because the other two are whores."

What's notable about Maymin is that he's young, well-spoken, well-funded, in a tight race with a high-profile incumbent, and not obviously insane. We all know it's finding a libertarian candidate with this last trait that's tricky. His assessment of Iraq -- we went in for reasons that didn't pan out and now it's time to go home -- is reasonable even if you don't agree. There's no way on God's green earth Maymin will win, but he stands a real chance of shaping the conversation if he can force Shays and Farrell to acknowledge him. The national media is a-coming, and Maymin had better be ready for his close-up.