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Former LAPD Sergeant With Cancer Sues California For The Right To Die

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A terminally-ill, former LAPD sergeant, along with two others with advanced diseases and a doctor, are suing the state of California for the right to die peacefully through the use of prescription medication.

Currently, it's illegal in California for a doctor to assist people in taking their own lives, according to PEOPLE. The group suing the state wants California law to allow people who are terminally ill and mentally competent to be given the choice to be able to ask their doctors to prescribe them medication to help them die "painlessly and peacefully, ending unbearable pain and suffering," according to a statement from Compassion & Choices, an advocacy group that supports end-of-life legislation, and filed this lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Christy O'Donnell, 46, a Valencia-based, former attorney and LAPD sergeant who has stage IV lung cancer, is leading the charge in this lawsuit. She released a video of her and her 20-year-old daughter, Bailey, giving background on her illness and what it means to her to be able to die with dignity. O'Donnell says she's always exercised, never smoked a cigarette, and has been a vegetarian all of her life, but was diagnosed with this deadly cancer in June 2014. The cancer has spread to other parts of her body, including her brain, and her doctor has told O'Donnell that she will most likely painfully die within the next few months, according to the release.

"The most likely way that I'm going to die with the lung cancer is that my left lung will fill with fluid, I'll start drowning in my own fluid," O'Donnell says in the video. "If I get to a hospital, they'll painfully put a tube in, they'll drain the fluid from my lung, only to patch me up, send me home, and wait until the next time my lung fills up with fluid and then I'll continue to repeat that process in drowning painfully until I die."

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Here is the video:

O'Donnell was inspired by Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old California woman who had terminal brain cancer and moved to Portland, Oregon last year to end her life through Oregon's "Death with Dignity Act." The case was highly publicized and brought light to rights-to-die laws. Medical aid in dying is also legal in Washington, Montana, New Mexico and Vermont.

The other plaintiffs in O'Donnell's lawsuit include Elizabeth Wallner, a Sacramento mother who has stage IV colon cancer that has spread to her liver and lungs; and Wolf Breiman, a retiree from Ventura who has multiple myeloma, cancer of the white blood cells that is incurable.

O'Donnell told PEOPLE that they're not asking for money, just a change in legislation. "I want to make sure that people understand: We're not asking for a dime," she said. "We're just asking for help. It's not selfish to not want your child to watch you suffer, and it's not selfish to not want to suffer."

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Not everyone is on board with supporting their lawsuit. Californians Against Assisted Suicide told CBS Los Angeles: "The question of assisted suicide policy needs to be considered in terms of how it impacts the broader society, particularly those most vulnerable, without economic means or health access, as well as people living with serious disabilities whose options are often diminished."

Currently, there is an End of Life Option Act that needs Senate approval in order to pass. The Senate needs to decide by June 5, and if they pass it, it will move on to the Assembly for their decision by Sept. 11. However, O'Donnell is filing this lawsuit to speed things up since she knows the legislation process is a long one.

"I can't wait," O'Donnell said. "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."