CALIFORNIA–On May 15, Compassion & Choices filed a suit against the state of California on behalf of three terminally ill Californians for the right to die.
The suit wants state law to allow physician assisted death for patients with conditions that modern medicine has no treatment for. This law would give physicians the authority to prescribe medication for mentally sound adults and remove the possibility of criminal prosecution against the physician. The medication would then allow patients to die on their terms, opposed to letting their terminal illness further deteriorate their body.
Christy O’Donnell, an attorney from Los Angeles is being represented by Compassion & Choices and is the lead plaintiff in the suit. O’Donnell was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in June 2014. The cancer now spread to her brain, spine, ribs and liver. Her chemotherapy is no longer effective. O’Donnell, whose death will occur from drowning in her own lung fluid, would prefer having the option of physician assisted death.
Once her cancer reaches it’s final stage leading to the her death, O’Donnell wants control on how her death should play out. If she reaches the point were she is suffering in her final days, she would rather begin the physician assisted death to bypass the long-term suffering. A physician assisted death, allows individuals to decide their fate.
O’Donnell, who is a single mother, wants want her daughter’s last memories of her to be precious. Instead of seeing her suffering and weakened, O’Donnell wants her daughter to remember her mother in a strong and controlled state.
Physician assisted death has been viewed as controversial with opponents believing the law will be abused by physicians and patients. Oregon has had a death-with-dignity law for over 17 years. Last year of the 155 residents who received prescriptions, only 60 percent took the medications.
The physicians role in assisted death is as a resource. Once the patient and physician have covered all steps, options and understanding of the process, the final step is only taken upon request of the patient. “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 I choose with whom to do it,” said O’Donnell.
Two other plaintiffs in the suit are Elizabeth Wallnerof of Sacramento, and Wolf Breiman of Ventura. Wallner, who has stage IV colon cancer which has spread to her liver and lungs, has had four surgeries to remove parts of her colon, and various forms of chemotherapy to aid in extending her life. Breiman, was diagnosed with myeloma, an incurable cancer of the white blood cells. Both believe the suit will help expand on an individual’s right.
On January 20, 2015 Senator Lois Wolk and Bill Monning introduced Senate Bill 128 End of Life. The bill would enact the End of Life Option Act, allowing adults who meet specific criteria in conjunction with their attending physician to be prescribed end of life medication. The bill has been approved by Senate Health and Judiciary Committees and is waiting for Senate approval before June 5.