Mother who fought for right-to-die legislation dies of cancer

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A terminally ill single mother who campaigned tirelessly for right-to-die legislation in California died Saturday, PEOPLE reported.

In 2014, Christy O’Donnell, 47, was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer that went on to metastasize throughout her body. She died a “peaceful” death surrounded by her 21-year-old daughter and older brother, PEOPLE reported. Though California signed the End of Life Option Act into law, it has not gone into effect and the former police sergeant did not want to break any laws to end her life, PEOPLE reported.

“She did take advantage of hospice care, so they did what they could to keep her as comfortable as possible,” Jay Watts, O’Donnell’s brother, told the magazine. “Unfortunately, she had tumors throughout her brain and her liver and everywhere. They did the best they could, but they couldn’t stop the seizures on and off or the breakthrough pain.”

Watts told PEOPLE that had the law been in effect, his sister would have taken the option “a month ago when her seizures started.”

“She knew what was going on… she did the best she could,” he said.

O’Donnell wrote a letter to be released after her death which included her hopes that soon the legislation would go into effect so that others would not have to endure her suffering.

“Today, I write this goodbye with tears in my eyes, not of sadness, but joy for my daughter’s future and the life I have lived,” the letter said, according to PEOPLE. “I have taken advantage of everything current medical science has to offer to try to live longer. I have prayed to be healed and have had people around the world praying for me. Yet I have suffered more emotional and physical pain than anyone should have to endure. 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,” she wrote, the magazine reported. “I ask you all to continue making your voices heard for those who are suffering. I take comfort in knowing that someday aid in dying will be lawful not only in California, but throughout the United States.”

She ended the letter with a special message to her daughter.

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