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When this cartoon published a week ago, I got a flood of emails from angry readers. What I thought was an innocent albeit surreal take on an old expression – death with dignity – was seen by many to be a jab at the political movement to secure a person's right to physician-assisted suicide. Unbeknownst to me, (because I don't pay much attention to life outside of my own tiny world, I suppose) there is a law in Oregon about this called the Death with Dignity Act.
This topic doesn't get much press here in NYC, at least not that I've noticed, so I didn't actually think about this when doing this cartoon. I don't mind offending people with whom I disagree if I feel strongly enough about a topic, but I hate offending people by accident, especially when I agree with them in the first place.
I've long supported any person's right to end their life when they wish to, especially in situations of chronic pain and illness. I think that denying this fundamental right of self determination is superstitious, archaic, and cruel. The sad truth is that even if a person is in excruciating pain, has no chance of survival and decides completely of their own sound mind that they want to end their life, anyone who aids them in any way can go to jail. As I understand it (and correct me if I'm wrong) in most states even if a person attains the means to do this on their own, anyone present while they do it can go to jail. So a person who somehow gets hold of enough pills to kill themself wants to go peacefully, surrounded by family and loved ones, they can't unless everyone in the room is willing to head to the slammer. Instead, their only option is to die alone, climb out of a window, hang themselves, blow their brains out, whatever they can manage in their condition. Of course, most people just choose to waste away slowly in agony because it is their only legal option. This is the law's idea of "respect" for human life.
So I spent a couple of days writing apologies to various readers and making statements to various groups and I think I've straightened it all out. I certainly hope that if the time comes that I want to check out of this life with some dignity, the law allows me the freedom to do so.