Voluntarily stopping eating and drinking a viable but troubling way to end life

Although assisted-dying votes and legislation are slowly making their way through state legislatures throughout the country, the reality is that even in states with such laws, the process to obtain permission is long and winding.

And time-consuming. To terminally ill patients looking to end their lives with dignity, it’s a welcome process but one that doesn’t allow for the issue of immediacy.

For patients need to end their lives sooner than later, the VSED option (voluntarily stopping eating and drinking) seems a viable alternative. Nonetheless it’s essentially death by dehydration, taking from seven to ten days to complete.

According to a recent article on the practice, it can be a fairly peaceful passing although the thirst issue can be quite agonizing in the final days.

For those looking to end their lives sooner than later, VSED doesn’t require governmental intervention, a doctor’s assistance or a proof of mental capacity. It is entirely removed from the current formal end-of-life process in states where it is legal.

But is VSED legal? In the article, Thaddeus Pope, director of the Health Law Institute at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minn says there don’t appear to be any legal obstacles to doing so, presuming that the individuals concerned are mentally competent.

But Pope also concedes that “an absence of prohibition is not the same as permission.” He added that because of the grey area, health care professionals are reluctant to get involved.

In my view, there is no argument that VSED, whatever its merits, is an unfortunate second choice to dying a peaceful death by an assisted death process.

Although assisted dying isn’t yet available in all states, when it is, it would be good if the process could allow for those who need to hasten their end due to health and pain-management issues. Because as it is, VSED is a poor option.

To ensure your end of life plans are in place, please get in touch to talk estate planning, will and power of attorney options.