VSED…in the real world…

The topic of Voluntary Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED) has been discussed in the medical world for a number of years. It is generally touted as a “natural” and/or “legal” way by which one can purposefully end one’s live without resorting to Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS)* or Euthanasia.

This came up recently at Strong Hospital while I was on the inpatient palliative care service. Ultimately, the questions that arose include:
1. What is the medical team’s responsibility to patients who are undertaking (or planning to undertake) VSED?
2. Should we treat hunger/thirst with opioids/benzos, or with offering food/water?
3. Can a patient use an advance directive document (e.g., living will) to direct that, when he becomes confused and asks for food/water that this be withheld and he be treated with opioids/benzos (or even sedation)?
4. Can a health care proxy enforce a patient’s explicitly-stated wish for VSED if the patient is asking for food/water.

These questions, and others, will be the topic of a panel discussion, which I will be part of, at Strong Hospital on April 17. See Upcoming Events for more info.

See also a related recent post and an article in the Linacre Quarterly by Dr. Cavanagh

– Tom Carroll

* Often now referred to as Medical Aid in Dying (MAID)