Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Million Dollar Baby

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, some disturbing images, thematic material and language

Reviewed by: Chris Monroe

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Drama, Romance
1 hr. 40 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
December 17, 2004 (select cities), expanded January 21, 2005
Featuring: Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Jay Baruchel, Christina Cox
Director: Clint Eastwood
Producer: Tom Rosenberg, Albert S. Ruddy, Clint Eastwood, Paul Haggis
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Copyright, Warner Brothers
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Relevant Issues
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Euthanasia and Disability

Movie Review by Joni Eareckson Tada’s site, Joni and Friends: GO
(Note: A diving accident in 1967 left Mrs. Tada a quadriplegic, unable to use her hands or legs. Since then, she has personally visited over 41 countries, several of them many times, authored many books, spoken before millions of people, and received a presidential appointment to the National Council on Disability.

Michael Medved calls “Million Dollar Baby” “insufferably manipulative.”—Read

In the disability magazine Ragged Edge, Mary Johnson explains why “Million Dollar Baby” and another right-to-die film, “The Sea Inside,” are dangerous.—Read

National Spinal Cord Injury Association calls “Million Dollar Baby” “a brilliantly executed attack on life after spinal cord injury” and part of Eastwood’s “disability vendetta.”—Read

Debbie Schlussel’s article: “Million Dollar Baby’s” Multi-Million Dollar Rip-Off—Read

American Family Association’s article: Million Dollar Euthanasia

See our review of “The Sea Inside

About Prayer

Why aren’t my prayers answered? Answer

What is prayer? Answer

About Pain and Suffering

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer


Is Hell a real place, where those who do not follow Christ will spend eternity? Answer

Will there literally be a burning fire in Hell? Answer

How can a God of love send anybody to Hell? Answer

What if I don’t believe in Hell? Answer

Am I good enough to go to Heaven? Answer


How do I know the Bible is true? Answer

What kind of world would you create? Answer


Are you going to Heaven? Answer

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “A fighter-turned-trainer forms a platonic love affair with a woman in her early 30s who is determined to begin a boxing career.”

Going another round in the ring with Clint Eastwood in “Million Dollar Baby” involves a familiar actor combination, as well as jabs of his usual amounts of melancholy. This narrative is lighter on its feet than some of his other films, due to its added bits of humor, but it also delivers a sucker punch that will send you reeling and force you to wrestle with some very weighty moral matters.

Gym owner and boxing trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) loses his latest trainee but is soon approached by another ambitious athlete, Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), who aims at being a professional boxer. Not necessarily dismissing her because she is a girl, Frankie tells her frankly he does not want to train her. But once he changes his mind, he is led to a fight he never anticipated and is forced to face his old adage that “Everything in boxing is backwards.” But for him at least, he has made a losing choice that he believes makes him a winner.

Several times throughout the film, Jesus Christ’s name is used in vain. Due to the subject matter, there are various incidents of people being punched during boxing bouts, as well as two moments that are more gratuitous than a typical fight. There is also one instance where the f-word was used. Subject matter and themes are also for a more mature audience, but do not involve any sexual content or nudity. However, one scene entails a shallow guy making comments about a woman’s body.

One interesting aspect to this story is that Frankie is an avid churchgoer who pesters his priest Father Horvak (Brian O’Byrne) on a weekly basis regarding an issue with his daughter. The details of this strained relationship are never explained, but we know that Frankie has letters returned regularly and that he kneels beside his bed nightly to petition God yet again. It’s open to interpretation whether God answers Frankie’s prayers, but what is disappointing is how the priest responds to Frankie at times. At the height of his frustration with Frankie, the priest uses the f-word and calls him a pagan.

When Frankie faces his most difficult challenge, he once again approaches the priest and asks for advice. He explains how Maggie has asked for Frankie’s help, so the priest tells Frankie to “leave it to God.” Frankie replies, “But she’s not asking for God’s help. She’s asking for mine.” Frankie does the opposite of the priest’s suggestions that follow, but what Frankie decides is presented as the better choice, not resulting in the negative outcome that the priest predicts. In terms of religion and moral issues, this film could easily generate many lengthy, involved discussions about its topic (see relevant issues list).

Aside from any debates that could arise from this film, the production value is absolutely stellar. From exceptional lighting to virtuoso dialogue and acting (i.e. Morgan Freeman), this film is a mature piece of craftsmanship. It is natural, believable and undeniably well done. The characters, the story and the complexity of relationships are so well developed that the movie never seems to miss a beat. Everything is relevant and meaningful.

The film does carry a redemptive outcome, highlighting the idea of heaven—in an interpretive way. It is entertaining and very provoking. If you see it, expect to think about it more than the two hours you spend in the theater.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: None

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Negative—This is good movie making, in that the acting and writing is believable and done with quality. However, the concluding message of the film, as I see it, is contrary to the first 2 hours of the movie. It is a movie about protecting yourself at all times, fighting through difficulties, working hard and never giving up. But in the end none of the characters do any of that. They give up, give in, and quit. The ending is immoral, in that taking a human life in this way is sinful, not heroic, murder not mercy. The characters play God. On this level it is very offensive, especially to real life people who have fought through similar difficulties and improved their own lives and inspired so many others. So, in the end, I was left feeling angry and upset and disappointed in what could have been an otherwise excellent picture.
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—Evan D. Baltz, age 38
Neutral—I found this high quality movie to be rather deceptive. On the one hand, it was a fairly clean movie that I could recommend to mature teens, my pastor, grandmother, etc. On the other hand, it presents a non-Christian worldview as commendable, which is more insidious and harmful probably than swearing, gratuitous violence or nudity.

I didn’t know much about this movie going in, I’m just a Clint fan and heard it was a well done film, maybe Rocky with a female boxer. Unlike in Rocky, though, the trainer ends up killing his boxer! I’m an RN and I’ve volunteered with Joni and Friends and met Joni Earickson Tada, as well as seeing her speak. I was thinking during the movie, if she could only talk to Joni (or any Christian) instead of going with her first instinct to kill herself (which was Joni’s first instinct as well). Clint thought he was helping her, but he was probably ushering her into hell, as well as squandering a life that God could have used in amazing ways.

This movie only scratched the surface of paralysis issues and presented the easy solution as the best. I thought the “Brooke Ellison Story,” done by Christopher Reeve shortly before his death, was a really good movie about quadiplegia.
My Ratings: [Average/4½]
—Jonathan, age 33
Neutral—This movie, although very well done (Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman earned their Academy Awards), was not the best film of the year. The far superior “Neverland” deserved the Best Picture award this year. I think it was an endorsement of the subject matter by the Academy that put this movie over the top: 1. Assisted suicide is seen as a better choice to life in some cases (as the reviewer stated as well). 2. “The Clergy” or what you have learned in church is really no help and has no relevant answers to the issues of today. I think a far more powerful message would have been to see Maggie adjust and overcome the tragedy in her life and continue to live (think Joni Erickson Tada), but perhaps her injuries were too severe to go that direction in the movie. Either way, the choice that was made took all the charm out of the movie and, as one other observer noted, left me feeling empty and disappointed.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Michael, age 47
Positive—Being an amateur boxer myself, I totally related to Maggie’s quest to be the best and her love of the sport. However, viewer be warned; the fight scenes are brutal and bloody. There is a moment where Frankie, Maggie’s trainer, manually fixes her broken nose, and it is not for the squeamish. Like with any movie that revolves around sports, the sport is only part of the bigger story. The three leads (Eastwood, Freeman, and Swank) are great, and their interaction with each other is perfect. Professional female boxer Lucia Rijker has a pivotal role during a turning point in the story. No nudity or sex, but a sprinkling of coarse language throughout. This excellent character study is about friendship, redemption, unconditional love, and finding peace.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Hillari Hunter, age 43
Neutral—As a Christian, I found the movie disappointing because of the paramountly negative message at the end. Artistically, it was wonderful, and Hilary Swank is an accomplished actress. I think this was Morgan Freeman’s best performance. The direction was flawless. The story simply flows, albeit if you really want to be analytical, the content has some flaws. How realistic is it that none of the three major figures have any relationships outside the boxing room? Maggie is always and always alone. But the quality of acting and direction is so good that it is easy to overlook the flawed screenplay.

I can recommend this movie to thinking, spiritually mature Christians who want to see a well-made movie on a rather unusual subject—professional boxing for women. But the ending is disappointing and somewhat lame.
My Ratings: [Average/4½]
Halyna Barannik, age 58
Positive—The movie was excellent. However, at one level I felt like I was watching a slick propaganda piece for euthanasia. Do not read any further if you do not want to know the ending. As the movie develops, Maggie becomes the fictional poster child for assisted suicide. And after much soul searching Frankie does the right thing and pulls the plug. Frankie is portrayed as a God fearing man; albeit a chronic skeptic when it comes to foundational church doctrine. Every church has at least one. However, I have never heard of a minister letting loose an F-bomb, because of the inquiries of such spiritual infants. The priest gives Frankie some lame advice about how he will be lost if he grants Maggie’s request. Does the priest visit Maggie to minister to her; to lay hands on her for her healing; to share Jesus Christ with her? No. Does Maggie go into eternity knowing the Lord Jesus Christ? Probably not. But she does go into the sweet night knowing she was a contender. I am reminded of the proverb, .”the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” The issue of euthanasia is similar to abortion. If you try hard enough you can find a sympathetic case. But once we start going down that slippery slope, at the bottom we will find the solution to making Social Security solvent.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Richard, age 47
Negative—This is a movie that exemplfies the secular worldview of life. Maggie is obviously searching for a connection and feels a need to accomplish her goal to be loved and have a life better than the abusive environment of her childhood. If only Maggie had understood that she could be a bride of Christ. Her trainer/manager played by Clint Eastwood demonstrates honest, non-sexual, love and concern for her…
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Kim Hubbard, age 39
Positive—I found this film entertaining and thought-provoking, but ultimately disappointing due to one point of view being represented. If you do not want to know the end of the film then please don’t read on. Clint Eastwood performs euthanasia on the paralyzed boxer played brilliantly by Hilary Swank.

The build up to this moment was heart breaking but did not challenge why it would have been worth her living. Would she find relationship with others? Would she become a spokesman for spinal cord injury like Christopher Reeve did in real life?? The similarities in Reeve’s spinal cord injury and those of Hilary Swank’s character are very noticeable.

In interview, Christopher Reeve always mentioned how at first he wanted to give up, but due to his will to walk he pushed research further and pushed the boundaries of what love actually means. Instead only the reasons for euthanasia were displayed. It would have been more balanced if Clint Eastwood’s character had confronted Swank’s request to end her life.

Also, the priest in the film shows his “human” frustration at Clint Eastwood’s persistent questions after church maybe to show that man does not have all the answers. I disagree that Frankie (Clint Eastwood) found peace since the film narrated by Morgan Freeman suggests he just disappeared from his gym and does not lay closure to whether he made the right decision.

Hilary Swank steals the show especially when her anger is revealed at her family who only are interested in her money.

Also, I am pro-boxing, but this is the first film to show the devastating effects of the sport. The title “Million Dollar Baby” could be interpreted in many ways, but at the end of the film, is Maggie (Hilary Swank) the million dollar top of the bill fighter, or a helpless baby maybe costing a million dollars to support her paralyzed body?
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
—Dr. Mark Lloyd, age 31
Negative—This is an adult movie, not in the sense of sex or nudity, but rather, it requires adult judgment and discernment in viewing it. It would be a mistake to read real life into this reel life - the ending is set up by everything that went before. The dramatist started with an ending and built a story to get you there. I left the theater immediately reminded that these were fictional characters, and feeling a lot less sorry for them than I should have. The movie is hurt substantially by the recent death of Christopher Reeve, who serves as a real life counterpoint to Maggie. Lastly, I do wish that a movie—any movie—could treat a priest and/or minister as a major character for good.
My Ratings: [Average/4½]
—Pat, age 50
Negative—This story really does not fit Clint Eastwood very well; kinda like “Blood Work.” I was quite disappointed with all three big names although I thought Morgan Freeman did about the best job. I’m not even sure I can recommend this for a “wait for the CD” movie. Eastwood “tries” to deal with some “spiritual” issues with the priest, but the gospel is not even close to being preached. Even the medical technical support is bad. Don’t waste your time!!!
My Ratings: [Average/2½]
—Bob C, age 41
NegativeSomeone snuck out a Jack Kevorkian movie script and made into “Million Dollar Baby.” If you agree with assisted suicide, then this will be the movie for you.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3]
—Dan Bovinich, age 48
Positive—[Non-Christian] What all the arguments have missed, is that what the priest stated—that if Frankie did euthanize Maggie, he would lose himself forever. The fact that Frankie does disappear, never to even show up at his gym, is testimony to this loss of self.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Jerry Engber
Positive—I do not think the movie was in any propaganda for euthanasia. It was a story, and that’s it. Moral content wise it was about what you’d expect from other reviewers. I do find it interesting that many of the popular pundits who have voiced their opinion that the movie is evil because it shows euthanasia are the same pundits who backed the war in Iraq. If killing and playing God is murder and wrong, then I don’t think you can draw that line.
My Ratings: [Average/4½]
—Edward Tuitte, age 20
Positive—This is a wonderful film—it deserves its Best Picture win and it’s acting and directing wins. The messages of the film are excellent and very well relayed by the excellent acting of Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, and Clint Eastwood. I have absolutely no problem with the alleged “euthanasia propaganda.” People that say that taking someone off a respirator is “playing God”—oooohhhhh!—forget that by putting that person on life support, artificially keeping them alive is playing God themself, and that, to me, is wrong if the person does not want it to be done. By using modern technology to keep someone alive that does not want to be alive is wrong and it is absurd that people have a problem with the message of the film on the “playing God” argument. I am not saying that we shouldn’t use modern medicine to help people, but aren’t the same people who want to ban testing on stem cell research the same ones who promote keeping someone alive, whether they want to be alive or not, at all costs.

How anyone can make a decision about someone else when they have no concept of how painful that person’s life is? As a Christian, I applaud not only Eastwood’s decision in ending the film the way it ended, but also making his characters Christians and showing his character as a compassionate Christian in the film. His character’s decision is a selfless, caring one, and I truly feel that Jesus would appreciate his humanity. But don’t take my word for it, see this film, think about it, discuss it and come to your own conclusion!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Doug Coleman, age 22
Neutral—Having the priest utter the F-word totally ruined the mood of the movie for me, almost rubbing my beliefs in my face. Why did they have to do that? I had my daughter and son with me, kind of embarrassed me. It would have been a stellar movie if they would have kept the language out.
My Ratings: [Offensive/5]
—LL Keiser, age 56
Positive—This is a wonderful film; it deserves its Best Picture win and its acting and directing wins. The messages of the film are excellent and very well relayed by the excellent acting of Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, and Clint Eastwood. I have absolutely no problem with the alleged “euthanasia propaganda.” People that say that taking someone off a respirator is “playing God”- …forget that by putting that person on life support, artificially keeping them alive is playing God themself, and that, to me, is wrong if the person does not want it to be done. By using modern technology to keep someone alive that does not want to be alive is wrong and it is absurd that people have a problem with the message of the film on the “playing God” argument. I am not saying that we shouldn’t use modern medicine to help people… How anyone can make a decision about someone else when they have no concept of how painful that person’s life is? As a Christian, I applaud not only Eastwood’s decision in ending the film the way it ended, but also making his characters Christians and showing his character as a compassionate Christian in the film. His character’s decision is a selfless, caring one, and I truly feel that Jesus would appreciate his humanity. But don’t take my word for it, see this film, think about it, discuss it and come to your own conclusion!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Doug Coleman, age 22
Positive—I’m sorry if this comment is not in a correct English, but I’m Italian. I agree that someone may feels uneasy viewing the end of this film, because when we talk about euthanasia, we don’t have all the same feelings about it, but in my opinion this film just for this end teaches more than many other “happy ending” movies. The fact is that even if suicide is a sin, when you got nothing and you can’t do absolutely anything in this world but made who loves you suffer more and more, why don’t come back immediately in our Lord’s arms? I don’t know if this was the thought of Maggie in the movie when she asked Frankie to help her dying, but the only thing she had in that moment was him. And he wasn’t going to be there forever, he was old, and maybe she didn’t want him to spend all the rest of his short life beside someone who can only (and hardly) speak, in a bed inside an hospital, watching her being amputated little by little.

When you love someone (and the love between Maggie and Frankie is a daughter-father strong love) you don’t want the one you love to suffer, even if this means don’t see him/her anymore. Frankie doesn’t want to “kill” her because egoistically he wants to keep her with him as long as he can, not thinking that she’s suffering a lot, and she will suffer day by day for many years, alone in a chamber, looking only to the ceiling, when he’ll be gone.

Then he realized that he can’t control her life, but he can avoid her from suffer for the rest of her life. Love is not always happiness and smiles, sometimes love means pain, and we are known to criticize other people’s actions, because we don’t really know how we could feel and what we could decide if we were in that situation. There is only one who can say if what we do is right or wrong, we mustn’t have the pretension to be like Him. The movie is useful because teach us that these things happens in the world, everything can’t always go in the better way.
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Nimiel, age 20
Positive—Well deserving of the Best Picture Oscar! Everything having to do with this film was perfect. Clint Eastwood has made another classic film! Those who have been so quick to send the negative reviews obviously missed the point of the film.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Adam Renkovish, age 22
Positive—SPOLIERS INCLUDED IN COMMENTS!!! Though it is a pivotal point in the film, I do not think that the action taken by the Eastwood character at the end of the film is being promoted. I disagree with the idea that the film was used as propaganda, or that someone COULD have felt that way throughout the film, because the subject is never broached until the last ten minutes of it.

This is a film about characters. It is a story about people and love and the risk involved in truly LIVING. It is the journey of three people. One man who finally takes a chance in life, finally puts himself on the line with another person (and I am not talking about the ending right now), and he experiences the blessings and the joys that come with that, as well as the heartbreak that is a part of this life. It is about a woman who was told she was worthless, and her journey to experiencing her dream, of finding a father figure for whom she is a treasure. It is about a wise old friend whose story is essentially a microcosm for all the film’s themes; who knows the truth that life involves risks, and that there is no blessing or purpose in this life for those who refuse to put themselves on the line; and that for those who do, pain is not made obsolete, but neither does that nullify the choice to risk. His monologue near the end of the film beautifully expresses this idea.

You see, there is a great deal of Biblical truth in this film. It is overflowing with messages that reinforce the Bible. Does anyone REALLY think that the Eastwood character WANTED to do what he did? Of course he didn’t. He was destroyed by the mere fact of being presented with the choice. And the priest is right, that the Eastwood character will regret his decision, wish forever that he would’ve made a different one. Why do you think he disappears at the end? He is crushed by what he has done, crushed that she would want him to do it, crushed that when he would not, she tried to do it herself, leaving, IN HIS VIEW, no real option. He appeases her because he loves her, and she is the first person he has loved, perhaps, his whole life. That is why he does it, not because he thinks it is right. Just because it takes pity on the man who pulled the plug as well, in no way takes the focus off of Swank’s character, but deepens its point by showing that more than one life is destroyed by this act. The film views his choice, as well as the whole situation, not as a victory, but with immense sadness.

To me, this perspective does the entire subject profound justice.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Jason Eaken, age 21
Positive—WARNING—Do not read further if you do not know the ending. Although I feel very strongly that euthanasia is not an issue that one can find God’s will on explicitly stated in the Bible (at the very least, I would say it is arguable), that is not what this movie is about at all. It is not just some movie propagating assisted suicide, nor is it supposed to be a Rocky-esque motivational flick; it is a movie about Clint Eastwood’s character undergoing change. That’s it. The assisted suicide is a detail. Eastwood went from a hardened, motivated, chauvinistic boxing coach to someone who can truly sympathize. The final point of the movie is not about giving up, its about sympathy, and feeling the pain of others. Therefore I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone. The acting is superb, the fight scenes are exciting, and the ending came close to making me cry (not an easy task). Go see it.
My Ratings: [Good/4½]
—John, age 20

Comments from young people
Negative—The movie Million Dollar Baby was one that my parents and I thought would be a good movie. Well, in one of the first scenes the swearing started. The “pastor” had just gotten done saying what God would want the man to do and then the pastor dropped the oh so famous f-word that we hear all the time. That’s when the movie went down hill. They must have said Jesus’ name in vain 10 or more times and the f-word about 15 times. The acutal movie such as the plot was excellent but the morality in this film really was not good. Take out the language and you’d have a great movie. But, as Christians I do NOT recommend you seeing this unless you have a tv guarder that blocks Jesus’ name being taken in vain and the f-word.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/4½]
—Gem, age 14
Positive—This was one of the most amazing movies I have ever seen… The story was beautiful, and acting inspired and brilliant, and direction flawless… It’s somewhat depressing considering the outcome, but a beautiful story anyhow… By the end of the movie I was sitting in the theater sobbing… Morgan Freeman is amazing as the janitor who used to be a great boxer before he lost sight in one eye. The film shows us two people: a man, Frankie, in his 70s separated from his family and somewhat cynical. And a woman, Maggie, in her 30s, determined to be a boxer no matter what. They both share a love of boxing, and bad family history. As their relationship grows into that of a father/daughter you’re amazed at the platonic love these two people share… As the film progresses you feel more and more like you actualy know these two… It’s a wonderful film with a heartbreaking ending…
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Sam, age 16
Positive—This movie is incredible. It is very deserving of the Oscar for Best Picture. It has a lot of swearing, so I would recommend it for teens and adults only. Go see it, you’ll cry so much.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Adam, age 14
Positive—This movie was THE BEST movie I’ve seen in a while! It had one scene of some talk about sex. They said the f-word one time, And some little scenes of language. But overall it had a heart, and it was funny and sad. There was a lot of violence, but only two scenes. I loved this movie, And you will not come out of the theater mad because you just wasted your money! You will come out refreshed! I loved it.
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Samantha, age 11
Positive—[Non-Christian] (*SPOILERS*) This movie was absolutely fantastic. I was horrified to find the other reviewers who were so incredibly biased toward the film because of the moral decision at the end. I thought the story was fantastic and the acting was absolutely amazing. I don’t really know how I feel about the end, because I don’t really know anyone who has personally been in that situation. I believe that it was Maggie’s choice whether or not she wanted to keep on living, because she was not living because of her own free will. She was only living because of the life support, and I think that it is perfectly okay that she decided that it was her time and that she wanted to die. I would recommend this movie to everyone, because it is probably the best movie of 2004!
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—David Tobin, age 15
Movie Critics
…the best movie released by a major Hollywood studio this year…
—A.O. Scott, New York Times
…a tough, pungent boxing drama with a delayed-action wallop… turns dark and heartbreaking in its final act…
—Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
…a rich experience… Swank gives great performance in terrific new Eastwood film…
—Paul Clinton, CNN
…The movie is wildly overrated in part because of an enduring affection for Eastwood, which I share… I hated this movie… It is dishonest in its marketing. They didn’t want to tell people what it is because no one would come… there are competing moral demands that come into the job of a movie critic. We have a moral and fairness obligation to not spoil movies. On the other hand, our primary moral obligation is to tell the truth… a depressing “right to die” message…
—Michael Medved
…brilliantly executed attack on life after a spinal cord injury… sends the message “better dead than disabled”…
—Bill Hannigan, National Spinal Cord Injury Association