When a person choses to hasten death by VSED, the cause of death is dehydration, not starvation. If that person is also suffering from a terminal illness, the “usual” length of the fast is one to two weeks. Absent an underlying terminal illness, the length of time before death may be longer, perhaps three weeks. What is critical to achieve death within that time span is the ability and determination to forgo all fluids. This requires great personal resolve in addition to comprehensive and accurate information about the process, good symptom management, and caregiving and psycho-social support.

VSED is generally not a painful process; hunger pangs tend to disappear after several days but feelings of a dry mouth or thirst can be more challenging to remedy. Providing excellent oral care usually relieves most of those symptoms when accompanied by small doses of oral pain medication and anti-anxiety medications. Good oral care includes the following: frequent opportunities to rinse and spit cool water can relieve dry mucus membranes, plus fine mist sprayed a back of throat, cold/frozen washcloth to suck, use of mouth wash & brushing teeth, artificial saliva — all help relieve distress. – Judy

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

April 19, 2022

Isn’t dying of starvation a painful death that takes a very long time to achieve?

When a person choses to hasten death by VSED, the cause of death is dehydration, not starvation. If that person is also suffering from a terminal […]
October 13, 2021

What is “better” about VSED if clinical care to manage inevitable extreme suffering is not available?

People have been dying this way for generations…and, as a rule, ‘extreme suffering’ is not a consequence of this option to hasten dying. No question, not […]
October 13, 2021

Regarding VSED, how can dry mouth be addressed, and are there ways to do this without using liquid?

While patient still alert & able to cooperate: frequent rinsing & spitting cool water; careful tooth brushing & keeping tongue & gums uncoated…use damp wash cloth […]
October 13, 2021

How is the agony of hunger and thirst palliated during VSED?

I would not use the term ‘agony’ to describe the symptoms associated with VSED. Hunger pangs tend to diminish after couple of days. No question that […]
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