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STATES, ACLU of WASHINGTON, CATO INSTITUTE, dozens of others FILE AMICUS BRIEFS FOR NATION’S FIRST LEGAL CHALLENGE UNDER “RIGHT-TO-TRY,” seeking access TO PSILOCYBIN THERAPY FOR END-OF-LIFE CARE
A broad national coalition urges the court to compel the DEA to allow patients to access psilocybin therapy for relief from anxiety and depression, in alignment with ongoing research on the effectiveness of psilocybin in mental health care.
Coalition includes states; advocacy groups for civil liberties and end of life care; and prominent physicians, bioethicists, researchers, and care leaders.
WHAT: Q & A for Media
WHEN: 11 a.m. EST, 8 a.m. PST — Monday May 24, 2021
LOCATION: Via ZOOM
SUMMARY OF AMICUS BRIEFS FILED
This case seeks to compel the Drug Enforcement Administration to allow patients with advanced illness, in the care of their physician, access to psilocybin therapy to relieve debilitating anxiety and/or depression, as contemplated by state and federal Right to Try laws.
WHO ARE THE AMICI: Amici are ‘friends of the court’ filing briefs to bring considerations uniquely important to them to the court’s attention as it considers the case.
AIMS et. al. vs. DEA amici include:
- States* defending the right of states to regulate the practice of medicine within their borders, defending Washington’s duly enacted RTT law. (*The specific states will be identified Monday, May 24 at Zoom news conference.)
- The ACLU of Washingon, the nation’s leading civil liberties organization, asserting the civil rights and liberties implicated in ensuring patients are able to determine their medical care in consultation with their physician.
- The Cato Institute, Goldwater Institute asserting the libertarian perspective and defending the essential premise of RTT laws: dying patients do not have time for the long process to approve investigational drugs to conclude and are to be granted early access.
- End of Life WA, the Washington State Psychological Association, Evergreen Health, and a coalition of nationally prominent end of life care physicians (including two Past Presidents of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine) and researchers, including Dr. Roland Griffiths, pioneering researcher who catalyzed the modern era research, asserting the importance of adding this important palliative care tool to the toolbox for patients suffering at end of life.
- A coalition of nationally prominent law professors and bioethicists, asserting that RTT laws are appropriately applied to psilocybin therapy for relief of non-physical suffering at end of life; criticisms of RTT are not pertinent in therapeutic use of psilocybin.
The amicus briefs may be accessed here: https://emergelawgroup.com/2017/opening-access-to-psilocybin-therapy-for-seriously-ill-patients-the-petitioners-opening-brief-in-aims-et-al-v-dea/
Initial Court Filing March 8, 2021:
Two patients with advanced cancer and their palliative care physician challenged the DEA’s refusal to allow patients with life-threatening medical conditions from accessing therapy with psilocybin, which has been shown remarkably effective in alleviating depression and anxiety in terminal illness. A Petition for Review was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on behalf of the Seattle-based Advanced Integrative Medical Science (AIMS) Institute, Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, M.D., Ph.D., and patients Michal Bloom and Erinn Baldeschwiler on March 8, 2021.
Psilocybin is classified as a schedule I controlled substance by the DEA. Research by some of the world’s leading academic institutions shows dramatic promise of psilocybin therapy in relieving anxiety and depression for patients with advanced illness.
Petitioners seek review of DEA’s decision denying access to psilocybin for therapeutic use, as contemplated by federal and state Right to Try laws. Respondents include the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the DEA Administrator and the U.S. Attorney General.
Petitioners’ Opening Brief was filed on 5/14/21. A copy of the brief may be accessed here:
Susan Patz is a 62-year-old mother of two grown children who lives in Monroe, Washington. In November of 2018 Susan was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known by many as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a disease of the nervous system that causes a progressive inexorable deterioration of bodily function and integrity. The disease is fatal and there is no cure.
In her declaration to the court Susan stated: “I can’t bear to live this way anymore. I want to experience joy during the time I have left. I want to enjoy the company of my family and friends. I want to appreciate my home and my animals. I want to find pleasure in things like reading and food again. I want to stop crying so much.
“I have tried to treat my depression with therapy and several different medications, but those treatments have provided very little relief. Sertraline, the medication I take now, has been more effective than the others I have tried, but only slightly. And even with this medication, I still suffer the severe and constant depression that I’ve described, including thoughts of suicide.
“My husband is a doctor who practices palliative medicine. He has told me about studies involving the use of psilocybin to treat depression. My understanding is that if it is administered in a controlled setting with proper protocols, psilocybin can be very effective in relieving symptoms of depression, particularly in people with a terminal illness. I want to try this treatment. I don’t want to keep living in this deep, dark place where my mind has been stuck for the past two-and-a-half years. I don’t want to spend the last year or two of my life feeling isolated, depressed, and suicidal. I am desperate to try something that will work, something that will enable me to experience joy and pleasure again. If the Right-to-Try laws don’t allow someone like me the chance to try something that may help alleviate my suffering, then what good are they?”
Sunil Aggarwal, M.D., Ph.D., FAAPMR, Hospice and Palliative Medicine, is co-director of the AIMS Institute. He is a hospice and palliative medicine specialist. He was named a Top 20 Emerging Leader in Hospice and Palliative Medicine in 2020 by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, where he served as the Chair of the Integrative Medicine Special Interest Group and is a founding member of the Safe Use of Psychedelic Assisted Therapies Forum. He is an Affiliate Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine and of Geography in the College of Arts and Sciences and an Affiliate Clinical Faculty at Bastyr University, School of Naturopathic Medicine. His medical geographic scholarship interests are in geographies of access, delivery, and development of cannabinologic and psychedelic integrative medicine, especially as they pertain to development in pain management, hospice and palliative medicine, and rehabilitation services.
Kathryn Tucker is one of the nation’s leading patient rights advocates. She is Special Counsel at Emerge Law Group, where she co-chairs the Psychedelic Practice Group. Kathryn is also executive director of the End of Life Liberty Project (ELLP), which she founded during her tenure as executive director of the Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC), the nation’s oldest disability rights advocacy organization. Tucker served two decades as Director of Advocacy and Legal Affairs for Compassion & Choices, working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life. She has held faculty appointments at Loyola, the University of Washington, Seattle University and Lewis & Clark, Schools of Law, teaching in the areas of law, medicine and ethics at the end of life. Tucker represented the patient and physician plaintiffs before the SCOTUS in Glucksberg v WA, Quill v NY, and Oregon et al v Gonzales.
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