Many people believe they can achieve a hastened death by VSED without anyone’s assistance or support. While it is true that people have died this way for generations without medical support, they probably endured a good deal of suffering. Palliative (or hospice) medical support for the symptoms associated with dying by dehydration can facilitate a peaceful, relatively pain-free death. Family members or close friends who understand the decision to hasten death by VSED provide important social and psychological support throughout the process. This becomes particularly important as cognitive abilities wane as death nears, and the person who has chosen VSED may “forget” their intention to forgo oral intake and their desire to hasten their death. In addition, caregiving help becomes necessary as the person loses physical strength and becomes unable to safely provide for their own physical care.

These issues ought to be anticipated and planned for while the person is still capable of making decisions and can effectively instruct their appointed health care agent, hired caregivers, and loved ones of their decision to forgo all future oral intake. They should also discuss how to respond if the person forgets their desire to hasten death and requests fluids.

It is recommended that a written advance directive be completed to inform future caregivers of this decision. Accompanying the written directive with a video recording of the person’s values and reasons for their end of life wishes is also recommended for the benefit of future caregivers who may not have known the person before capacity was lost. The person’s primary health care clinician ought to be aware of the decision to VSED, along with the reasons for that decision. The goal is to have medical (palliative) relief available for any unacceptable symptoms associated with the process. -Judy

For more information, check out our Medium article series, End of Life Options — Conversations with Judy

April 19, 2022

Why do I have to discuss my intention to VSED with anyone? Isn’t it my body and my choice?

Many people believe they can achieve a hastened death by VSED without anyone’s assistance or support. While it is true that people have died this way […]
January 3, 2022

What are the most common mistakes people make when completing advance directives?

When advance care planning, focus on what matters to you today. A common mistake is that people imagine themselves being at an imagined point in the […]
January 3, 2022

How regularly should I review my advance directive(s)?

We recommend reviewing your directives every decade, after a major life event (children, divorce, death, etc.), or after a new diagnosis or change in an illness. […]
January 3, 2022

How should I store my advance directive?

It is important that you make these directives readily accessible. Do not put the directive(s) in your safety deposit box or a file in your desk, […]
January 3, 2022

With whom should I share a copy of my advance directive(s)?

We recommend giving a copy to your health care agent (and alternate agent, if applicable), your medical providers (e.g., doctor, nurse practitioner, etc.), your attorney (if […]
January 3, 2022

What is the legal status of the Dementia Directive? Are there special considerations?

As this is a new directive, no New York law or court has considered it, and judicial review is anticipated. Until this occurs, there are some […]