Mom Trying to Legally End Her Life Might Be 'Selfish' -- But Is She Wrong?

A terminally ill California woman is fighting for her right to die her way, specifically by assisted suicide. Christy O'Donnell, 46, filed a lawsuit on May 15, asking the state courts to "immediately allow her doctor to prescribe medication without criminal prosecution that would end her life before terminal cancer can kill her."

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The former LAPD sergeant and single mom told PEOPLE magazine, "I am dying within the next months, and I am going to die painfully ... I am asking the courts for intervention to issue an order so that a doctor can legally prescribe a medication so that I don't have to die painfully, and so that every moment before I die, I don't have to spend afraid and worried about the painful manner in which I'm going to die."

She is one of three people named in the lawsuit who are partnering with Compassion & Choice, a group that supports right-to-die legislation. She claims that Brittany Maynard, the terminally ill woman who took her life via assisted suicide late last year, inspired her to reach out to the group.

O'Donnell was diagnosed almost a year ago with Stage IV cancer in her lung that spread to her brain, and learned just last month that chemo wasn't working anymore. The cancer had spread to her liver, left rib, and L1 vertebrae. On April 21, she was admitted to the hospital for several days "because the pain in my back had gotten so excruciating I could barely walk."

She says her life expectancy is June or July of this year, and she's in considerable pain as most painkillers make her violently ill.

She also claims that she wants to end her own life to spare her daughter from either coming home and discovering her body, or watching her mom die painfully. Because the current law against assisted suicide was passed in 1873, O'Donnel says, "To know that the the law that's keeping me from dying peacefully and forcing my daughter to watch me die suffering was passed during a time when slavery is still legal in one of our states or territories, and that another of our states, Hawaii, wasn't even a state, is frustrating to me ... The law is supposed to change according to the needs of society."

More from The Stir: Brittany Maynard Dies With Dignity At Her Home (VIDEO)

Let me just flat-out say that I fundamentally disagree with the idea of assisted suicide. I'm also very cognizant of the fact that I've never been in a position to consider it for myself or on behalf of a loved one, so my opinion could change in the future.

I just couldn't imagine not wanting to spend every moment possible with my kids before God took me home. It sort of gives the term "living for your kids" new meaning, doesn't it? But it wouldn't just be for my kids and letting them have their mom here a few more days or weeks or even months, it would be for me too. So long as I was conscious, I'd want to be here.

But O'Donnell makes the point that she doesn't want her daughter to see her suffer, which I can appreciate, even if it's a different position than I would take. She said, "It's not selfish to not want your child to watch you suffer, and it's not selfish to not want to suffer."

She obviously loves her daughter, and they even have a cruise in the Bahamas planned for her 21st birthday on June 23. Tickets have been purchased and travel arrangements have been made, and she's just hoping that she'll be well enough at that point to go.

"I have fewer good days now," O'Donnell says, "but it doesn't mean that the days aren't precious."

She's obviously not a selfish woman. I disagree with assisted suicide, and I can see that. But is she making a selfish choice here? She says her daughter supports her, but is a 20-year-old daughter of a dying mother really going to say, "No, I want you to suffer incredible physical pain because I want to keep you around a little bit more"? Maybe, maybe not.

Regardless, it's an incredibly difficult idea to even contemplate, let alone make a decision about.

Do you think terminally ill patients should have a legal right to assisted suicide?

 

Image via ©Phil Fisk/Corbis

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