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Posted on February 5, 2017 at 8:53 AM

I have provided many arguments for why a patient has a legal right to hasten their death by voluntarily stopping eating and drinking.  But risk averse clinicians want more than my lucid legal analysis.  They want clear and direct authoritative guidance.

While there are few on-point precedents, there are some.  One is Plaza Health and Rehabilitation Center v. Henninger (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Syracuse Feb. 2, 1984).

In that case, 85-year-old former college president Ross Henninger was fasting in a Syracuse nursing home to hasten his own death. The nursing home sought a declaration of its rights and responsibilities.  

On the one hand, the home has an obligation to provide care for its patients, including adequate nutrition.  On the other hand, it cannot provide treatment if the patient has, after being informed of and understanding the consequences of refusing, refused to consent to any such treatment.

New York Supreme Court Judge Donald H. Miller ruled that the nursing home nursing home was neither obligated nor empowered to force-feed Henninger.

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