Dying Mom Sues for Right to Die

Christy O’Donnell, 46, doesn't want her daughter to come home, find her dead
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2015 3:51 PM CDT

Christy O’Donnell knows how she will die, should her body have its way: "Most likely ... my left lung will fill with fluid, I’ll start drowning in my own fluid." Doctors could drain the lung, painfully; ABC News reports she has a morphine intolerance that makes pain management especially tough for her. But the process will repeat itself until death comes, the 46-year-old explains in a video recorded in March and posted online Monday by Compassion & Choices. That's not the way the terminally ill single mother—the non-smoker has Stage IV lung cancer that has spread to her brain, liver, rib, and spine—wants to go. She's one of three plaintiffs who on Friday sued California for the right to die as she wishes: in her Santa Clarita home with daughter Bailey, 20, holding her hand. "I don't want my daughter to come home and find me dead," she says.

It's a very present fear. "Every day, when my daughter is coming home from work, she calls me on the phone to talk to me. You know why? She wants to know before she gets home if I'm still alive." O’Donnell says she's lived "10 people's lives"—the practicing lawyer is a former sergeant in the LAPD who tells ABC7 she investigated hundreds of suicides. KFOR reports that the California state Senate is considering Bill 128, the End of Life Option Act, and has until June 5 to pass it; in which case the Assembly would have a Sept. 11 deadline. O'Donnell says that timeline is too long for her, and wants to be able to get a prescription that she could use when she feels the time has come. A press release from Compassion & Choices, which filed the suit on the plaintiffs' behalf, says the suit asserts "that the California constitution and existing state law allow the medical practice of aid in dying." (A well-known right-to-die opponent succumbed to cancer in March.)

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