Free will and the ability to choose are cornerstones of maintaining one’s quality of life and dignity in their final days. Many people struggle with the unrelieved suffering of a chronic or incurable and progressive disorder. Others may decide that they are simply “done” after eight or nine decades of a fully lived life. A person may choose to control their own dying by making a conscious decision to refuse foods and fluids of any kind, including artificial nutrition and/or hydration. This option, sometimes known as VSED, can be chosen by a decisionally-capable adult who has the physical ability to eat and drink but consciously refuses foods and fluids in order to advance the time of their death. A determined and well-informed individual with significant caregiving and hospice support can successfully choose this end-of-life option. The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the right of a mentally capable individual to refuse medical therapies, including food and fluids.
The following general information is provided to inform those who may consider this option and should not be considered legal advice that applies to your specific situation. Information has been compiled based on the experiences of other Compassion & Choices’ clients who chose this option, and from the findings of several small research studies of hospice patients who stopped eating and drinking as death neared.