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California Efforts Unyielding

Our California team, busily refining a new strategy to pass the End of Life Option Act, suffered a loss this week: the death of dedicated advocate Jennifer Glass. Prolific and outspoken champion of the right to aid in dying – and revered ally of Compassion & Choices – Glass passed away at her home in San Mateo with her husband Harlan by her side.

Glass was diagnosed with an advanced form of the most common type of lung cancer seen in nonsmokers in 2013, just four months after her wedding. She pursued every available option to extend her life, and she succeeded for two years. Even before joining Compassion & Choices’ California campaign, Jennifer used her communications savvy to bring attention to the issue. She wrote a column about living with lung cancer, “At the Top of My Lungs,” for The Huffington Post, and her story appeared in dozens of media outlets including People, The Today Show and NBC News. Before she died, Glass stated her final campaign request: that the fight to authorize medical aid in dying continue.

“Lung cancer is an ugly way to die. I would find great comfort in knowing I had another option,” she said at our news conference in Sacramento to introduce SB 128, which would authorize medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults in California. “We need your help so that every Californian knows what’s at stake for each of us as individuals.”

“I am deeply saddened by the news of Jennifer’s passing,” said California Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning, co-author of SB 128. “My heart goes out to her family. We will continue to pursue Jennifer’s commitment to establish the right of terminally ill patients to have all end-of-life options made available to them.”

At Jennifer’s request, Compassion & Choices has set up tools so people can donate to our national efforts to pass aid-in-dying laws and send letters to legislators. The deadline for the California legislature to act is Sept. 11.

Compassion & Choices is advancing efforts beyond the legislature to authorized aid in dying. We will file an appeal in our lawsuit asserting the California constitution and existing state law allow terminally ill adults the option of death with dignity. The suit experienced a recent slowdown when Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack, who originally granted a motion to expedited review of the case because terminally ill lead plaintiff Christy O’Donnell is very ill, dismissed the case. “It’s up to the legislature or the people to change the law, not a superior court judge,” he stated.

O’Donnell was in court for the ruling, which came on her birthday. “This is not the outcome I had prayed for, but as a lawyer, I am confident the appeals court will see our case in a different light,” said O’Donnell, who lives in Santa Clarita with her 21-year-old daughter, Bailey. “I don’t have much time left to live, and that is why I support all end-of-life options, whether they are authorized by litigation or legislation. These options are urgent for me.”