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 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 […]
October 13, 2021

Are wishes regarding stopping eating & drinking commonly documented in advance directives?

NO. This is a fairly new type of directive. – Judy