Terminally ill Christian mom sues for right to die her way

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Credit: Compassion & Choices

VALENCIA, Calif. -- A terminally ill mother is among three plaintiffs who recently sued the state of California for the right to end their lives.

Christy O'Donnell, 46, was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in 2014 that spread to her brain. Despite months of aggressive chemotherapy, the cancer has spread to her brain, according to a news release from Compassion & Choices, a non-profit organization aiming to expand choice at the end of life.

O'Donnell, who has a 20-year-old daughter, said if new chemotherapy treatments fail, she's only expected to live a few months. Doctors have told O'Donnell her death will be slow and painful.

“The most likely way that I’m going to die with the lung cancer is that my left lung will fill with fluid, I’ll start drowning in my own fluid,” O’Donnell said in the video, which was recorded on March 4.

Credit: Compassion & Choices

O'Donnell said she was inspired by the late Brittany Maynard to reach out to the group Compassion & Choices, to help her. Maynard, 29, grabbed the national spotlight after publicizing that she and her husband, Dan Diaz, moved to Portland so she could use Oregon’s law to end her life on her own terms. She was diagnosed in January 2014 and died on November 1, 2014.

“I have lived an incredible life," O'Donnell said in the video. "I have lived 10 peoples’ lives in my 46 years. I have had the joy of motherhood, which has been the greatest joy in my life. So, because of that, I’m not afraid to die. But not being afraid to die is not the same as wanting to die. I don’t want to die.”

Credit: Compassion & Choices

She said she could go to a hospital where doctors will "very painfully" drain the fluid from her lungs with a tube. Eventually, however, her lung will start to fill with fluid again, and the process of "drowning painfully" will repeat until her death.

For her, it's all about having a choice.

“With a physician-aided death, I would have the choice to seek out and ask a doctor for a prescription, I choose whether to fill the prescription, I choose whether or not to take the prescription, and I choose when to do it, I choose where to do it and with whom to do it," she said.

O'Donnell, who lives in Santa Clarita, Calif., is a former sergeant in the LAPD and a proud Christian.

“I have been a Christian my whole entire life and I am today,"O'Donnell said. "I believe in God, I pray and I have an entire support system that prays for me."

Credit: Compassion & Choices

Last week, Compassion & Choices filed suit in California on behalf of O’Donnell and two other people with terminal or advanced diseases asserting the law should allow the medical practice of aid in dying.

O'Donnell would like to be allowed the option to request a prescription to end her dying process should the pain and suffering become unbearable.

“No parent wants to be lying on the floor, knowing their child is going to come home and find them dead," O'Donnell said. "And every day when my daughter is driving home from work, she calls me on the phone to talk to me. You know why? Because she wants to know before she gets home if I’m still alive.”

The thought of how her death will impact her daughter, 20-year-old Bailey, is what prompted O'Donnell to take action.

“It’s the most difficult thing ever… to see your mom slowly dying, essentially," Bailey said.

The two other plaintiffs in the suit are Elizabeth Wallner of Sacramento, who has stage IV colon cancer, and Ventura resident Wolf Breiman, who has an incurable cancer of the white blood cells called multiple myeloma, according to the non-profit.

Credit: Compassion & Choices

According to KTLA, the lawsuit alleges, among other things, that the plaintiffs' rights to privacy and free speech have been violated, a copy of the legal complaint stated.

It coincides with a legislative campaign in the state that, if passed, would authorize medical aid in dying.

Senate Bill 128, the End of Life Option Act, is "closely modeled" after Oregon's Death With Dignity Act and was recently approved by the senate's Health and Judiciary Committees, according to KTLA.

The Senate has until June 5 to pass the End of Life Option Act, according to the non-profit. If passed, the Assembly would have until Sept. 11 to approve the legislation.

Four other states -- Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico -- currently allow medical aid in dying, according to Compassion & Choices.

10 comments

  • Mimi

    While I understand her feelings and the horror at the prospect of a slow, painful death, I still don’t think that we as God’s children have the right to decide to end our lives when we want. God has a plan for each of us and He doesn’t allow us to suffer because he gets a kick out of it. On the contrary, He must suffer watching his children suffer as well. But there is a very good reason that people have to suffer that only God knows and who are we to say we know better than God who knows all and has perfect wisdom and can see the bigger picture in everything.

    • Fish Jones

      Cool! If -you- believe that, then by all means, Do Not Use A Doctor or any medical technology to survive in any way. If you give birth, go out and do it in a Stable and put your baby in a Manger, the good old Sacred way. If you die, God wanted you to.

      The rest of the world, and your precious God will love you for it. Leave the rest of the planet

  • bob

    Why do we provide a kindness for a pet RAT that we deny our fellow human beings?

    I’m especially confused by those who call themselves “religious”, especially “Christians”, who cling so desperately to the last shreds of a life that has already ended. If you’re so sure of your eternal reward then why does death terrify you so? And do you REALLY think that your god requires you to be tortured?

    • bob

      How do you know what god wants? Talked to him lately?

      And why should YOUR belief dictate the choices of others?

      Do as you please, and respect the right of others to choose as well.

    • Loretta

      There is a commandment, thou shalt not kill. That applies to self as well! It’s not the fear of dying, it’s the fear of an eternity without God! Hell is real whether you people believe or not.

  • ANOTHERBOB

    I’m not sure why this mother feels that identifying herself as Christian would or should be a part of the “right to die” issue. Personally I’ve never understood why people would spend a lot of money to prolong the life of a suffering pet.
    We terminate the lives of unborn children, then fight to prolong the lives of killers on death row and people who are suffering and want to die. Doesn’t make sense to me.

    • Bobs mom

      Bobby, are you annoying people again?
      put down your iPhone and go outside in the backyard and play with your pet rock .

  • zenia

    My father has lung cancer an second hand cancer. My father lives in Ga an I would like to get help for my father. They gave him 1 year to live. I an my family do not want my father to suffer or be in pain. Please if could an are will to help my father an our family out it would be greatly appreciated.

  • Auntie Enn

    Is she in horrific pain? Then her doctor can prescribe a high dosage pain medication. If she wants to end it her way, take all the pills and go to sleep. You don’t need 30 if they’re strong narcotics. If you really, really want to end your life, you don’t need it legislated. Light some candles and incense, Lie down, take the pills and follow with a glass of wine. Neither condemning or condoning. She can have anyone there she wants. If she’s worried they’ll call 911, don’t tell them what she’s done. And be sure to have a DNR on hand. That’s a Do Not Resuscitate order.

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