David Gruenwald has just published “Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking: A Practical Approach for Long-Term Care Facilities” in the Journal of Palliative Medicine.
“Some residents of long-term care (LTC) facilities with lethal or serious chronic illnesses may express a wish to hasten their death by voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED).”
“LTC facility clinicians, administrators, and staff must balance resident safety, moral objections to hastened death, and other concerns with resident rights to autonomy, self-determination, and bodily integrity. Initially, requests for hastened death, including VSED must be treated as opportunities to uncover underlying concerns. After a concerted effort to address root causes of suffering, some residents will continue to request hastened death. Rigorous resident assessment, interdisciplinary care planning, staff training, and clear and complete documentation are mandatory. In addition, an independent second opinion from a consultant with palliative care and/or hospice expertise is indicated to help determine the most appropriate response.”
“When VSED is the only acceptable option to relieve suffering of residents with severe chronic and lethal illnesses, facilitating VSED requests honors resident-centered care. The author offers practice suggestions and a checklist for LTC facilities and staff caring for residents requesting and undergoing VSED.”