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Christian California Mother With Terminal Cancer Files Lawsuit To Die Her Way

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- A terminally ill single mother from Southern California is fighting for the right to have a doctor provide her medication so she can end her life peacefully and painlessly.

The nonprofit Compassion & Choices released a video featuring Christy O'Donnell, a Santa Clarita resident with a terminal prognosis of less than six months to live. In a new lawsuit, the Christian, Republican civil rights attorney and former LAPD sergeant is asking the state courts to allow her doctor to prescribe medication that would end her life.

"Some dying people face unbearable suffering in their final days that even the best hospice and palliative care cannot relieve," said Compassion & Choices National Director of Legal Advocacy Kevin Díaz, who also worked with death-with-dignity advocate Brittany Maynard. "As Brittany Maynard recognized, these people desperately need the option of medical aid in dying so they can die painlessly, peacefully in their sleep – and they need it now – before it's too late."

Even after receiving chemotherapy every week for the last nine moths, O'Donnell's doctors have told her that she will likely die painfully within the next few months from lung cancer that has spread to tumors in her brain, spine, ribs and liver.

"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," says O'Donnell in the video, which was recorded on March 4. "I spend an inordinate amount of time being afraid of the pain that I'm going to endure.  All of that time that my mind spends thinking about that, I am not living. I don't want to die [but] I should be able to get a prescription [for aid-in-dying medication], have that peace and never think about it 'til the day I'm ready to die."

ALSO READ: Calif. Assembly Vote Lets Terminally Ill Patients Request Experimental, Unregulated Drugs

The suit coincides with the legislative campaign to authorize medical aid in dying in California called End of Life Option Act, or SB 128.

"We are pursuing multiple legal theories to authorize medical aid in dying to maximize our chances of bringing immediate relief and peace of mind to terminally ill Californians like Christy," said John Kappos, a partner in the law firm of O'Melveny & Myers LLP, who is working in conjunction with Compassion & Choices to file the suit.

SB 128 is modeled after Oregon's death-with-dignity law brought on by Maynard's family, who moved from their Bay Area home so Maynard could live her final days in Oregon with a doctor's prescription to end her life on her own terms.

The two other plaintiffs with terminal illness, Elizabeth Wallner from Sacramento and Wolf Breiman from Ventura, are also represented in this case.

A recent poll shows that California voters support the medical option of aid in dying by more than a 2-1 margin (64 percent vs. 24 percent).

The deadline to pass the End of Life Option Act in the Senate is June 5.

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