California’s End of Life Option Act allows some patients with terminal illness to end their lives with a fatal dose of medication. That was the choice Gabriella Walsh made after being diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. LA Times reporter Marisa Gerber and photojournalist Dania Maxwell shared her story, capturing the final weeks of her life. They joined host Lisa McRee on “LA Times Today.”

In January 2022, the End of Life Option Act was updated to streamline some processes and make it a bit easier for people like Gabriella to take advantage of the option to terminate their lives. Maxwell talked about Gabriella’s life and passing.  

“Gabriella was a very fun person to get to know because she had all these life experiences. She was born in Chile and came to the States when she was pretty young and attracted all these different types of people and friends. She really lived in her life and had known pretty early on, years before she was diagnosed, that if she was ever faced with a terminal diagnosis, she would likely choose death with dignity,” Maxwell shared. 

Gerber explained how Gabriella came to be diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine mammogram showed tumors in her breast.

“Before she knew it, she was sitting down with a radiology oncologist who explained to her that she had aggressive breast cancer in her right breast. In the weeks ahead, she had a PET scan, and that cancer had quickly metastasized into her bones. And she had 15 tumors in her sternum, her hip. By the day she found out, the cancer had already metastasized into her right arm, spreading to her lymph node. So it was a very, very fast timeline,” Gerber said.

Gabriella hired a death doula to help ease her final days. The doula provided care, emotional support, and companionship as Gabriella lived with cancer.

Before her death day arrived, Gabriella’s friends came to Los Angeles from all over the world to spend time with her. Gerber shared the stories of Gabriella’s final days with her friends. 

“In her final weeks, they got an Airbnb and hung out at the beach and went out to eat. She often referred to it as a living funeral. She got to hear things that people might normally say for a eulogy. And she got to tell them to how much they had meant to her through the years,” Gerber said. 

Maxwell captured Gabriella’s final moments on camera. She spoke about the experience and the impact Gabriella’s story had on everyone present.

“When I looked at Gabriela that day, she just felt very complete, like she lived her life, and she was done. Photographing her takes the medication really affirmed that for me. She was very ready for this choice. There was no hesitation from her. Of course, it’s very hard to photograph something like that. It’s very delicate how we come into this world and how we leave it. But I think Gabriela really wanted us as readers to think about our choices, that we have authority and how we die,” Maxwell said.

Click the arrow above to watch the full interview.

Watch “LA Times Today” at 7 and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday on Spectrum News 1 and the Spectrum News app.