PREPARING FOR VOLUNTARILY STOPPING EATING and DRINKING

Voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED) is a well understood and socially accepted method of hastening death. It is not an easy path and it is not for everyone, but both individuals who have chosen this path and their loved ones who have spoken publicly describe their experience positively. Despite this, many in the general public are unaware of VSED, have never considered it for themselves or a loved one, and are less than enthusiastic when they are first introduced to the concept. Be prepared to educate your loved ones about VSED and why you are choosing this method of hastening your death.

Resources

Voluntarily Stopping Eating & Drinking (VSED), by End of Life Washington (2020). This handout can be downloaded from End of Life Washington’s website, endoflifewa.org/end-life-choices (scroll down to find the VSED document in PDF format). This introduction to VSED is a good place to start.

Stopping Eating and Drinking: A Guide, by Boudewijn Chabot MD PhD (2014). Chabot’s short book can be purchased from his website, dignifieddying.com, and provides a great deal of information very succinctly, including a summary of oral care measures and a table of often-used medications.

Phyllis Shacter’s website, www.phyllisshacter.com, is dedicated to demystifying VSED and is based on her experience supporting her husband through VSED. Under “The VSED Choice,” she provides a list of the caregiving supplies they used. Shacter’s supply list anticipates practical care needs that will arise beyond those related to oral care, medication, and preventing bedsores.

Choosing to Die: A Personal Story: Elective Death by Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED) in the Face of Degenerative Disease, by Phyllis Shacter (2017). Shacter’s book is about her husband, Alan’s, choice to hasten his death by VSED rather than sink into Alzheimer’s. It tells their story, describing their relationship, and elaborating on their evolving thought process and emotional experience. Whether or not that backdrop is of interest to you, the book includes a summary of the daily log of Leslie Powell Shankman, the Certified Nursing Assistant who was Alan’s primary caregiver through his VSED process. That daily log is a good reality check for those embarking on VSED and for those who will care for them.

Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking: A Legal Treatment Option at the End of Life, by Thaddeus Mason Pope and Lindsey E. Anderson (2011). This article appeared in the Widener Law Review (17, p. 363). It is an in-depth examination of the legal status of VSED. Though it is long, have a printed copy available whenever you might be questioned about the legality of your choice. Download it here: http://open.mitchellhamline.edu/facsch/278