Sacramento Woman Sues for ‘Right to Die’

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SACRAMENTO-

With her son away at college, there's a lot of four-legged love in Elizabeth Wallner's life these days.

It's a life she thought might have ended before her son was even old enough to graduate high school.

"They gave me 18 months to live," Wallner said.

Those words came as she was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer back in 2011.

Asymptomatic and feeling healthy, that cancer still quickly metastasized to her liver and then to one lung as revealed by a PET scan.

"There was just one comment that said lesion in LLL," said Wallner.

A dizzying array of doctors and diagnoses led Wallner into a fight that has left her in unthinkable places.

"They went in to port in my back and I was knocked out. I was in surgery and i was screaming in pain," she said.

When asked why she would sign on to a lawsuit about how to end a life that's lasted long past when doctors predicted the emotions rise up and she just cries.

The overwhelming acknowledgement of the kind of devastating pain and deterioration that may come with her cancer has led Wallner to sign on as a plaintiff in an effort to decriminalize the act of a physician prescribing medications to help a terminally ill, mentally competent patient end their own life.

Right now in California it's legal for a patient to decide to choose to die after terminal sedation or to remove a life-sustaining intervention like a feeding tube, but a patient without such an intervention can't choose meds that would aid in dying.

"There's some hypocrisy definitely - hands off except when we don't like it," she said.

The four plaintiffs in this suit believe the distinction currently being made in the law is unconstitutional and violates a doctor's right to free speech since even counseling patients about this kind of end of life option is a felony.

The defendants in the suit are California's attorney general and the district attorneys in Sacramento, San Diego and Los Angeles counties.

Wallner has three middle names - all of which appear in the suit.

The last one, Gobertina, is one that everyone born into her family has had in either the male or female form for 240 years.

It's out of deep respect and love for those in that long family line that she wants another choice.

"You couple it with fear and then you couple it with feeling bad and and then you have your child to watch? And I leave the planet and that's what he remembers? And that to me is just something unimaginable?" she said.

Wallner had no idea anyone in her family had had polyps or any other kind of colon problems until after her diagnosis.

That's information that's important to share.

Wallner is deeply spiritual and her family completely supports her choice to possibly end her life with prescribed medication.

Sacramento county's district attorney would not comment on this ongoing litigation.