There is now a concerted effort being made by doctor-prescribed suicide advocates to gain acceptance for what is called voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED). Residents of assisted living facilities and others who are considered frail or disabled are being urged to consider this “option.”
You might wonder what this has to do with euthanasia by lethal injection and doctor-prescribed suicide.
The answer was given by a speaker at an international euthanasia conference some years ago. During her presentation, she promoted death by the removal of food and fluids. She went on to explain that once people see how painful death by starvation and dehydration is, then, “in the patient’s best interest,” they will accept the lethal injection.
(Source: Deadly Compassion, William Morrow and Company, pp. 94 and 267)
British doctors who have helped individuals starve and dehydrate themselves to death admit that the process is “horrific” but said there is no alternative in Britain as long as euthanasia remains illegal.
“Is there any difference between euthanasia and palliated starvation?
(BioEdge — November 6, 2017)
While VSED does not involve an invasive or aggressive act like many other means of suicide, the authors write that “VSED should [nevertheless] be considered as a form of suicide….Doctors who assist patients in VSED — by encouraging them, or promising pain-relief if VSED is undertaken — are potentially instrumental in the deaths of the patients, as the suicide would not occur without them, and they share the patient’s intention of inducing death.
ANA Adopts New Recommendation on VSED
“Nutrition and Hydration at the End of Life”
(American Nurses Association — September 2017)
“People with decision-making capacity have the right to stop eating and drinking as a means of hastening death…Some people who choose VSED may not be imminently dying….
“Psychological, spiritual or existential suffering, as well as physical suffering, can lead to patient requests for hastened death. There is an extensive knowledge base to help manage the burden of most physical symptoms….
“Nurses who have an informed moral objection to either the initiation or withdrawal of nutrition or hydration should communicate their objections whenever possible, to provide safe alternative nursing care for patients and avoid concerns of patient abandonment.”
ANA Position Statement (Draft for Public Comment): Nutrition and Hydration at the End of Life (Comment due by December 1, 2016)
… Decisions about accepting or forgoing nutrition and hydration will be honored, including those decisions about artificially delivered nutrition as well as VSED. (Emphasis added.)
… People with decision making capacity have the right to stop eating and drinking as a means to hasten death.
“Complexities of Choosing an End Game for Dementia”
(New York Times — January 19, 2015)
Article discusses using advance directives to order that the signer not receive food and fluids by mouth if he or she develops dementia.
“British right-to-die campaigner starves herself to death”
(Bioedge — October 25, 2014)
Jean Davies, 86, died after she stopped taking food and water. She did not have a terminal illness. In an interview with the Sunday Times, she described the process. “It is hell,” she said. Her daughter was asked why her mother persevered in carrying out her death. “I think it occurred to her after she started her course of action that it was something which could attract attention,” she said. “She sought publicity after her decision.”
More on United Kingdom
“The Ethics of Food and Drink: Starvation is not mercy”
(Weekly Standard — July 28, 2014)
Should the law compel nursing homes to starve certain Alzheimer’s patients to death? This is not an alarmist fantasy, but a real question, soon to be forced by advocates of ever-wider application or assisted euthanasia. The intellectual groundwork is already being laid for legislation or court orders requiring nursing homes, hospitals, and other facilities to withhold spoon feeding from dementia patients who, though they take food and drink willingly , once requested the withholding of life-prolonging measures in an advance medical directive.
“Advance Directives, Dementia, and Withholding Food and Water by Mouth”
(Hastings Center Report 44, no. 3 (2014): 23 37)
The authors argue, “If incompetent people do not lose their rights to refuse life-saving treatment, and if people when competent have just as strong a right to VSED as they do to refuse life-saving treatment, then people do not lose their right to voluntarily stopping eating and drinking when incompetent either. They only have to exercise it by advance directives.”
“A Traveler’s Final Story”
(Herald Tribune — March 23, 2014)
Sixteen days without a morsel of food. Sixteen days without a gulp of water….”[I]f someone asked me do do this again, I’d tell them I want no part of it,” says Helen. “I’d strongly suggest they look into all the reasons they want to leave — and then that they get some goddamn pills.”….”I don’t think Dorothy ever considered the burden you are putting on people by asking them to help.”….
“Old or Sick People Starve Yourselves!”
(National Review — July 24, 2013)
In the Journal of Medical Ethics, Julian Savulescu argues that doctors should help suicidal patients starve themselves to death. He means voluntary self starvation — also pushed in the euthanasia movement as VSED (voluntarily stopping eating and drinking).
“Guest Column: Ensuring death with dignity”
(Rock River Times — February 2, 2012)
Done right, VSED can bring a safe and peaceful end; however, the process is relatively lengthy, between one and two weeks, on average. To manage any pain, patients require sustained palliative care, which is often difficult and expensive to arrange. Twenty five percent of individuals who choose this route have difficult and painful deaths. It is often devastating for their loved ones to watch individuals deny themselves food and drink for two weeks, even when those individuals have made a conscious choice to do so.