Wolf Breiman, whose cancer prompted him to publicly support legislation to give terminally ill Californians the option of medical aid in dying, died peacefully from pneumonia on December 31. He passed away at a hospital, while surrounded by his wife, Debbie Diamond, family and friends. He was 89.
“He was such a trooper who never complained about anything,” said Debbie Diamond, his wife of 35 years. “I miss him dearly and I am so proud of him. Wolf ran to the finish line to help provide options for terminally ill Californians.”
Wolf, who had terminal cancer of the blood and tongue, and his wife, Debbie, were staunch supporters of the California End Of Life Option Act. He also served as a plaintiff in Compassion & Choices’ lawsuit asserting the state’s constitution and existing statutes allowed medical aid in dying.
“Wolf worked tirelessly for the passage of the End of Life Option Act, even as he was facing his own death,” said Compassion & Choices President and CEO Barbara Coombs Lee, who coauthored the 1994 Oregon law that was the model for the End of Life Option Act. “Our hearts break at the loss of this amazing man, but his selfless legacy will live on.”
The announcement of Wolf’s death comes only one day before Susan Talamantes Eggman, chairperson of the California Assembly Select Committee on End of Life Health Care, will hold the first hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 24, about how the End of Life Option Act is working since the law took effect on June 9, 2016. The law gives mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the option to request prescription medication they can decide to take to die peacefully in their sleep if their suffering becomes unbearable.
Wolf, a retired landscape architect, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2008. Despite enduring chemotherapy and other debilitating treatments, the cancer spread from his blood to his tongue. Yet, he bravely continued to advocate for the option of medical aid in dying.
Before the End of Life Option took effect, he told to the Ventura County Star: “…life is no longer a choice for me. That choice is no longer there. I can choose only how to die.”
Wolf planned to obtain the medication as soon as he met the law’s requirement of having six months or less to live. Then, he would decide if and when to use it.
Wolf changed doctors when his primary physician told him he would not write a prescription for aid in dying if it were legal.
“I am 87 years old,” Wolf said. “I’m OK with death. I just don’t want to go out in misery.”
Wolf was born March 4, 1928. He became a U.S. citizen after he moved from Romania to California at the age of nine. He is survived by his wife Debbie Diamond.