Patients with life-threatening disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, for which only minimally effective medical therapies currently exist, often seek treatments not proven to be effective and not approved by regulatory agencies for use outside of experimental treatment trials. The expanded access (compassionate use) provisions of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for access to such therapies are often perceived as being inadequate. In response, states have passed right-to-try laws designed to improve access to experimental therapies for patients willing to assume the risks associated with such treatments. This situation has resulted in conflicts between those who perceive access to such treatments as their right as autonomous individuals and those who believe that the principles of beneficence and nonmaleficence justify actions of physicians and regulators in controlling access to such treatments. A variety of factors also contribute to the inequitable distribution of such treatments. Better systems are needed to improve access to promising new treatments while protecting these vulnerable patients from the abuses associated with human research in the preregulatory era.