Brother: Right-to-die advocate Christy O'Donnell dies

AP News
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Posted: Feb 10, 2016 6:53 PM
Brother: Right-to-die advocate Christy O'Donnell dies

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Christy O'Donnell, a single mother with lung cancer who became a prominent figure in the California right-to-die debate, has died. She was 47.

Her brother Jay Watts said in a Facebook posting Monday that O'Donnell died Saturday. Watts did not include details of her death in the posting, but he said health care workers providing her hospice care "were absolutely wonderful in doing what they could to help make Christy's final days as comfortable as possible given the circumstances."

He could not be reached by The Associated Press.

Jay Watts told People Magazine that her death was peaceful and that she passed away at her Santa Clarita home, north of Los Angeles, with her daughter, Bailey Donorovich, 21, holding her hand. Watts was by her side as well.

O'Donnell campaigned for a bill signed by the governor last year to make it legal for the terminally ill to seek medical aid to end their lives. The law is expected to go into effect later this year, making California the fifth state in the nation to provide such a right.

O'Donnell in her final message posted on Facebook said that when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in 2014 it had metastasized to her brain and later to her spine, rib and liver. She said she took advantage of medical science to prolong her life.

"Yet, I have suffered more emotional and physical pain than anyone should have to endure," she wrote. "My daughter and I fought very hard during the last months of my life to try to bring about positive change in this World. My daughter has unselfishly given up her time with me to all of you, so that no child will ever again have to watch the person they love suffer at their death. I ask you all to continue making your voices heard for those who are suffering."

The former Los Angeles police officer, who later became a civil rights attorney, testified before state lawmakers and filed a lawsuit in a state court last year so California residents who are terminally ill could legally obtain life-ending drugs from a doctor when they determined the time was right.

Religious groups and advocates for people with disabilities opposed the bill.

O'Donnell vowed repeatedly to never break the law. Watts told the magazine that had the law been in effect she would have "taken the option a month ago when her seizures started."

"Our hearts are breaking at the loss of this amazing woman who did so much for others even as she was facing her own death," said Toni Broaddus of Compassion & Choices, a right-to-die advocacy group which worked closely with O'Donnell campaigning for the law. "It's a tragedy Christy could not take advantage of the new law she so bravely fought for during the last months of her life."

The End of Life Option Act sponsors, Assembly member Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, and Sens. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Bill Monning, D-Carmel, said in a joint statement: "Christy was an amazing fighter and will be tremendously missed. Her advocacy in support of the End of Life Option Act was inspiring. That she championed this law knowing it would likely not take effect in time for her to benefit from it is a testament to her courage and humanity."