Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Death Controversy

Bizarro is brought to you today by Ways To Get Arrested in the Park.

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.


Carin said...

Oregon's "Death with Dignity" act aside, I love the cartoon, and can definitely relate to your disappointment at being misunderstood.

And they were nice cufflinks. Really nice.

Anonymous said...

God, people totally need to chill.

Anonymous said...

As a prickly diehard liberal who will defend right-to-die legislation, um, to the death, I wasn't at all offended by the cartoon. It's nice to know that there are people out there who are even more hysterical than I am. Raises the bar, y'know?

Anonymous said...

Hear! Hear!

Rebecca C. Brown said...

Three cheers to this post!

Unknown said...

Nice play on words. -An Oregonian, the one with the sense of humor

Lockwood said...

Well said. I live in Oregon and, with trepidation, voted in favor of the assisted suicide law. Annual analyses suggest little or no abuse or misuse of the measure- that is, it is applied as intended, at the choice of the patient and with the guidance and consent of the attending doctor. The checks and balances in the law help to ensure that it is not misused, for example, simply to put a cap on end-of-life expenses.

It's not something I think about very often, but when I do, I'm grateful to know the law is in place if by chance I or someone I care about needs to take advantage of it someday.

John R. Platt said...

Huh. I think this is a great cartoon -- funny, as well as both life-positive and death-positive. Why not go out laughing?

akeeyu said...


Long time fan of your work.

My father died sans dignity, instead getting shafted with the whole 'wasting away in agony' option.

I recently voted for our local Death With Dignity law (which passed, woohoo!).

I think it was classy of you to explain and apologize to those whose feelings you hurt, but I was not offended in the least when I saw this strip.

I thought it was funny as hell.


For what it's worth, I though it was hilarious.

Tom said...

I live in Oregon, know about the Death with Dignity Act, but wasn't offended by your comic, just confused by it. It's a relief to know that you were unfamiliar with the Act and it's not my sense of humor that was faulty!

Anonymous said...

Dan don't you remember our home state reviving a condemed prisoner, who had OD'd so they could execute him by lethat injection. I thought your cartoon was in extremely good taste.

Anonymous said...

Here's one Oregonian who's not offended. I thought it was funny. And the old guy's expression is perfect - looks like he's gonna go in good spirits, so's to speak.

daveintoronto said...

Don't be so hard on yourself, Dan- some folks are just looking to find something to bitch about.
At my own age, (66), I figure that I should be doing my own research on this 'death with dignity' thing. (Understand- I'm not trying to be morbid about this, but at the same time- I would not want to go on living as a vegie.
I was talking about this with my adult children, a couple of months ago. I told them, that when I 'bite the big one', (thank you Frank Zappa)- I want them to remove all identification, strip me naked, and toss me onto the steps of City Hall!
My kids thought that was gross-I told them that this is what I want!
Hope you don't mind, if a print of your cartoon is now pinned to my bulletin board?

Anonymous said...

I had no idea Oregon passed a law like that. I agree with you (and that law) 100%.

Unoffended said...

Another blog post that makes me sad. I got the gag and I must say that lately more of the panels actually make me "LOL".

I'm sad because so many people seem to set tripwires in front of everyone else so they can be offended. Do they get up in the morning and rub their hands together in gleeful anticipation of finding a new way to be offended?

Fercryinoutloud, it's cufflinks. On Death (captital D). It's a joke.

George Eighmey said...

As an Oregonian who criticized this cartoon, your explanation was perfect and your support for Death with Dignity compassionate and commendable.

Anonymous said...

I love your cartoon and I am a breast cancer patient who believes in "Death with Dignity"
Kathy in CA

theevildrfang said...

I have always been a fan of yours Dan and took no offense at your "Bizarro" approach to a cliché. I am a member of Final Exit Network (one of a number of right-to-die organizations) and also a trained "Exit Guide" which means that I can show people how to end their lives quickly peacefully and without leaving a shocking mess for their loved ones to clean up.

GENE said...

I'm going to be fifty in 15 days. I have also been living with chronic pain since 2000. DEA/Insurance and the celebrity deaths have seriously hurt my ability to seek pain relief. Hoop after hoop they throw at me.

The pain doctors idea of "Relief" is me stuck in bed. Quality of life Zero. That way it will keep their "books" clean in case of inspection. OMG.. Maybe he OD? Better yet a pain pump.. First I lose any ability to raise or lower the dose. (in other words.. not in real time like you can with a pill) And to bad the pump won't work for my condition.

Pain is subjective.. I "KNOW" exactly how much pain I'm in. Yet it is the doctor or "State doctrine" that decides if I'm in pain.. and how much. Very scary!

The system is 100% screwed on this point. Oregon has the right idea.. maybe.

What I have been looking for is a nice painless way to EXIT. Of course exit without throwing the people that care about me in jail. (The million dollar question)

Not much can stop a zealot "Twit" DA from singling my case out. Put my wife and friends in jail. Even my doctors if he/she wanted to.

I could die "Out of country".. But that would really screw my wife's life up. Not to mention the costs involved. Look into it. .. Special coffins and expensive paper work.. AND!! There is nothing to stop the DA six months later charging my wife for "Letting me" go on my one way trip.

Also.. "The system" is just waiting for a guy like me to go "Postal". Then they could put enhanced security everywhere. Imagine going into your MD's office through a medical detector as SOP. Or.. Patients who take XYZ Schedule II drug is added to special lists. Restricting travel and other BS.

People healthy or not.. After the age of 21 should have the right to die for any reason. It should be easy - low cost and fast. No questions asked. Oh and a "Death" pill that kills with no fear or pain. The drug companies kill people every day.. pollute the environment, etc. A "Death" pill as I describe should be a no brainer for them.


Or I could just find a LVMPD officer and mouth off. The problem is I'm sure it would take me several weeks to die. I don't want that.

Awful Cute Studio: The Spiffiest Place on Earth said...

Two bony, skeletal thumbs up.