Nearly eight years in on his ALS diagnosis, former Raven O.J. Brigance gets around with the help of a wheelchair and speaks through a machine. It was through that machine that Brigance testified against the contentious right-to-die legislation being heard in Annapolis.
Brigance told lawmakers (via the Baltimore Sun), “Because I decided to live life the best I could, there has been a ripple effect of goodness in the world. Since being diagnosed, I have done a greater good for society in eight years than in my previous 37 years on earth.” He went on: “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.”
It reportedly received applause from the crowded room. But will one man’s personal experience, as inspiring as it is, be enough to outweigh story after story of terminally ill patients who wish to end their suffering but can’t, including that of former Annapolis Alderman Dick Israel for whom the legislation is named?
Of course, Brigance’s appeal to consider what the right to die robs from “family, friends, and society” is not the only argument against the legislation. Other concerns include the reliability of terminal prognoses and the possibility of coercion by family members.
The Washington Post rated the the bill’s chances as “slim this year” and noted that “Maryland has taken a strong stance against assisted suicide in the past.” Still, nationally, the right-to-die movement is gaining steam, so it may not be an issue that goes away any time soon.
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