NFL Player Speaks Powerfully Against Maryland’s ‘Death with Dignity’ Law

OJ-BriganceConfined to a specialized wheelchair, ventilator permanently helping him breathe, and communicating solely through the movement of his eyes, former NFL player O.J. Brigance has seemingly lost everything after being diagnosed with ALS in 2007.But the man who was the epitome of health and at the top of the world when he won the Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2001, incredibly told Maryland lawmakers considering an assisted suicide bill that he now considers his life with ALS as more meaningful:

“Because I decided to live life the best I could, there has been a ripple effect of goodness in the world,” Brigance said. “Since being diagnosed, I have done a greater good for society in eight years than in my previous 37 years on earth.”

His testimony came during an emotional hearing in Annapolis on a proposed “death with dignity” law, a measure that is named in honor of Richard E. “Dick” Israel, another prominent Marylander with a neurodegenerative disease. While Israel is spending his final months fighting for the right to end his life, Brigance says his terminal disease brought meaning to his.

The proposal would allow terminally ill patients to obtain a lethal dose of a drug from doctors, making Maryland the sixth state to pass right-to-die legislation.

Brigance, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2007, urged lawmakers not to sanction death for people facing terminal illness.

“The thought that there would be a legal avenue for an individual to take his or her own life in a moment of despair — robbing family, friends and society of their presence and contribution to society — deeply saddens me and is a tragedy,” said Brigance, who is currently the Ravens’ senior adviser to player development.

Brigance knows all too well the temptation to give up when faced with a difficult diagnosis.

Here’s more of his powerful testimony, from the Washington Post, including his own struggles with the issue:

“I have personally faced the dilemma debated by the committee this afternoon, whether to live or die with dignity, as the proponents of the bill would call it,” he testified, using a voice-generating computer that he activates by moving his eyes.

He told the panel that after his diagnosis he and his wife were almost overwhelmed at the thought of him “losing the ability to run, walk, talk and eventually to breathe on my own.”

“But once we grieved, we came to the decision that adverse circumstances in no way delete purpose or destiny in one’s life,” Brigance continued. “Have there been days where it has been challenging? Of course. However, I did not create my life, so I have no right to negate my life.”

In testifying against the “Death with Dignity” Act, Brigance’s inspiring words show us the inherent dignity of life. Let’s hope he changed some minds that day.

Watch O.J. Brigance deliver his testimony through assistive technology in the video:

Alexa is a freelance writer and communications consultant, with experience working on the Hill, at the RNC, and for... More about Alexa

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