Christy O’Donnell, an advocate for the End of Life Option Act, died after a years-long battle with cancer on Feb. 6, her sister confirmed in a Facebook post Monday.
O’Donnell, 46, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and brain, liver, lung, rib and spine cancer in June of 2014. She was the lead plaintiff in a suit that helped move California to passing a law which will give terminally ill patients the option of medical aid in dying.
Gov. Brown signed SB-128 in October and is set to take effect later this year.
“The End of Life Option Act will give mentally capable, terminally ill adults facing intolerable suffering in the dying process the ability to ask their doctor for medication they can take to die gently in their sleep,” according to a release from Compassion and Choices, a nonprofit dedicated to giving the terminally ill a choice in their own deaths.
Christy O’Donnell of Santa Clarita participates in a news conference in San Diego. (Photo: Compassion & Choices)
O’Donnell’s final message to the world was posted on her Facebook page Monday afternoon.
“I have prayed to be healed and have had people around the world praying for me,” stated a line from the Facebook post. “Yet, I have suffered more emotional and physical pain than anyone should have to endure.”
“I take comfort in knowing that someday Aid in Dying will be lawful not only in California, but throughout the United States.”
The post includes a link to a trust fund she set up for her daughter to finish college.
O’Donnell was a single mom to her 21-year-old daughter, a civil rights attorney and former LAPD sergeant.
Statement from Compassion & Choices, Feb. 8:
Christy O’Donnell, whose horrific suffering from cancer prompted her to publicly support legislation to give other terminally ill Californians the option of medical aid in dying, has died. She was 47.
Christy’s older brother, Jay Watts, confirmed she died on her Facebook page:www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1559435231048921&id=100009473760886
Photo: Compassion & Choices
“On February 6, my little Sister Christy passed away and she asked me to post this as her final message on Facebook, as she wanted everyone to know how Loved, Supported, and Lucky she has been in her Lifetime to have you all in her Life. I and our family want to extend a special thanks to the health care professionals athttp://www.bestchoicehospicecare.com/ who were absolutely wonderful in doing what they could to help make Christy’s final days as comfortable as possible given the circumstances.”
“To Bailey, my Beautiful Daughter: … I have done everything I can think of to prepare you for this moment and I pray that it has been enough to lessen your suffering after Mommy is gone. I also pray that all of Mommy’s friends and family will be there for you in the future and they have set up a Trust for you atwww.crowdrise.com/odonnellfund to do what I could not be there to do, get you through College in our own home with our poopies ‘Lady’ and ‘Pup Pup’. …I take comfort in knowing that someday Aid in Dying will be lawful not only in California, but throughout the United States.”
Christy bravely fought for the recent enactment of California’s aid-in-dying law, the End of Life Option Act, despite knowing she would likely die before it would take effect: 90 days after the end of the legislative special session concludes later this year.
“Christy worked tirelessly for the passage of the End of Life Option Act,” said Compassion & Choices California Campaign Director Toni Broaddus. “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. 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. We have so much gratitude for Christy and her work.”
Between agonizing, debilitating cancer treatments, Christy traveled from her Santa Clarita home to Sacramentoto testify in support of the End of Life Option Act, told her story to journalists, met with lawmakers, rallied at their offices urging them to support the bill and videotaped a personal plea for Gov. Jerry Brown to sign it.
When Brown signed the bill on Oct. 5, she unselfishly spoke of the other beneficiaries:
“I’m overjoyed for all the terminally ill in California, who can now relax knowing they finally have the choice of aid in dying as one of their end-of-life options'” she said. “Gov. Brown, you have made me a proud Californian today, knowing I live in a state where our governor acts in accordance with what his people need, want, and deserve: in this case, a peaceful and pain-free death with their family.”
A single mom, devout Christian, lifelong Republican and LAPD officer turned civil rights lawyer, Christy had a unique story that resonated with the media and the public.
She was featured in a People Magazine article: “Why Can’t I Die on My Own Terms?” And she wrote an op-ed published by the Los Angeles Daily News: “Deprived of the choice to die with dignity.” Dozens of media outlets covered her story, including: The Huffington Post, The [London] Daily Mail, The Washington Post, and Yahoo News. To learn more about Christy’s courageous battle to pass the End of Life Option Act, watch this video:bit.ly/ChristyO.
Christy was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2014. Despite enduring a year of chemo treatments, the cancer spread to her brain, liver, spine and a rib. Her doctors said she would likely die painfully within months from the rapidly growing cancer.
Despite this prognosis, she tirelessly advocated for passing the End of Life Option Act and was the lead plaintiff in a suit filed by Compassion & Choices asserting existing California law and the state constitution already authorize medical aid in dying.
“I can’t wait,” she told People Magazine. “My daughter can’t wait. I owe this to myself, and I owe this to my daughter. She’s either going to come home and she’s going to have to discover my body, or she’s going to have to watch me die painfully.”
Dan Diaz, the widower of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old Californian with terminal brain cancer who moved to Oregon to access its death-with-dignity law in 2014, fought back tears as he spoke about his friend Christy.
“The first time I ever spoke with Christy she briefly shared with me the details of the cancer she was battling, but the focus of the conversation quickly shifted to how proud she felt of her daughter, Bailey,” Dan Diaz said. “Christy’s determination to live life as long as possible, and her advocacy for end-of-life options, emanated from her love of Bailey. Christy’s devotion to always do right by her Bailey is how I will remember my dear friend.”
Christy was born on July 24, 1968. She was a partner at the law firm of McCune & Harber in Los Angeles and was also a guest lecturer at University of Southern California. She is survived by her 21-year-old daughter,Bailey Donorovich.
Compassion & Choices is the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life. More information is available at: www.compassionandchoices.org