Matthew Nagle, paralyzed man who volunteered for treatment, dies at 27

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BROCKTON, Mass. (AP) – Matthew Nagle, who volunteered for a groundbreaking treatment for the paralyzed that allowed him to use his brain signals to work a computer, has died. He was 27.

Nagle fell into a coma on July 17 and was diagnosed with sepsis, an infection of the blood. He died Monday at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton. Nagle lived at New England Sinai Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in Stoughton.

Nagle was paralyzed from the shoulders down in July 2001 after he tried to help friends in a brawl at an Independence Day celebration in Weymouth and was stabbed in the neck. He was left unable to breathe without a ventilator and nearly unable to talk after scar tissue grew over his vocal cords.

Nicholas Cirignano, who was convicted of stabbing Nagle, is serving a 10-year prison sentence.

Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating’s office is studying Nagle’s autopsy report and could file homicide charges against Cirignano if medical and other evidence showed the death resulted from the stabbing, Keating’s spokesman David Traub told The Patriot Ledger of Quincy on Thursday.

In 2004, Nagle volunteered for a Brown University experiment with a device called BrainGate, which used a tiny sensor implanted in his head to read his electrical brain signals. The signals were read by computer software that allowed him to move a computer cursor.

The BrainGate chip was later removed, and electrodes were implanted to stimulate the diaphragm, which allowed Nagle to breathe without a ventilator and control his wheelchair with his breath.

His father, Patrick Nagle, said his son volunteered for the treatments because he wanted to do his part to help the paralyzed.

“He used to say: ‘You know what, there’s a lot of us in chairs. If we all do a little, maybe we can make it a lot,’ ” his father said.

Nagle was born in Cambridge and grew up in Weymouth. Besides his father, he leaves his mother, Ellen, and brother, Michael.

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