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Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking

VSED means the voluntary stopping of eating and drinking, including artificial nutrition and/or hydration, with the specific intention of hastening one’s death.

Freedom for independent choice is the foundation for maintaining quality and dignity of one’s life. There are many valid reasons for choosing VSED. It may be that the patient is simply “done” with living, or their quality of life no longer supports enjoyment, satisfaction or autonomy. A person must be a mentally capable adult who has the physical ability to eat and drink but consciously refuses foods and fluids. Usually this person is already enrolled in palliative or hospice care. The U.S. the Supreme Court has confirmed the right of a competent individual to refuse medical therapies, including food and fluids.

Just as the body knows how to give birth, it knows how to die. In our experience this choice is simply an escalation of what is already happening in the declining body. We also find that this path is not black and white and often patients change their minds - even from moment to moment - during this process. We have walked with our patients and witnessed their human expression as they wield their choices. The beauty of this choice is its natural and graceful transition, which is organically built into the human dying process.

Brenda and Nancy

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