Over a dozen states are currently considering bills that would legalize assisted suicide, a practice already legal in four states, including Oregon. Maryland resident O.J. Brigance, a Super Bowl champion, is adamantly opposed to the idea, despite a diagnosis of ALS.
Eight years ago, Brigance was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which causes nervous system degeneration and progressively destroys muscle control.
In spite of his prognosis, the sports champion is against the bill, which he said will “devalue the lives and possible future contributions of Marylanders.”
“I did not create my life, so I have no right to negate my life,” Brigance said in testimony before the Maryland Senate Judiciary Committee. “Since being diagnosed, I have done a greater good for society in eight years, than in my 37 years on earth.”
Brigance now works as a senior advisor for the Baltimore Ravens, the team he won once won the Super Bowl with. After being diagnosed with ALS, he founded the Brigance Brigade Foundation, which provides grants to patients with ALS to help them live higher quality lives.
“Because I decided to live life the best I could, there has been a ripple effect of goodness in the world,” Brigance said.
Mary Ellen Russell of the Maryland Catholic Conference also testified against the bill. “There is no life that we consider not worth living, no person who does not deserve to be valued simply because they are a living human being,” Russell said. “Our concerns about the bill are shared by numerous other groups, including members of the medical community, disability groups, advocates for vulnerable elders and others.”
“We wish also to convey our deep dismay about the message this legislation sends to those who might feel that their illness and the care they require is nothing more than a burden to their families and the rest of society,” Russell added.
John Kelly, New England regional director of Not Dead Yet, expressed deep concern over the growing trend as more states consider bills that would legalize assisted suicide. “Proponents [of assisted suicide] are making it all too clear that disabled people have every reason to fear for our lives,” he wrote in the Oregonian.
The four states that have legalized assisted suicide are Oregon, Montana, Washington, and Vermont. Many more are considering bills that would legalize it, including Alaska and California. Colorado recently voted against the bill, and Montana is considering a law to delegalize assisted suicide.