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 […]
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 is voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED)?

VSED is a decision made by an adult with decision-making capacity to stop further intake of food and fluids with the goal of hastening their death. […]
December 8, 2021

What are the best ways to approach institutional partners re VSED (e.g., aged care, nursing and care homes)?

That is a very challenging issue. However, so long as the patient is decisionally-capable, they have an absolute legal right to refuse ANY intervention, including life-prolonging […]
December 8, 2021

How do professional caregivers (for example hospice staff) get training for attending to VSED folks?

There is certainly a lot of very useful, practical clinical information in our book about VSED and there is also information online (though one must be […]
December 8, 2021

Can you speak to the benefit of the Death Doula role in VSED?

I have recently begun to collaborate with doulas in the care of their clients. They often call with specific questions about VSED, and pros/cons of advance […]
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