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07/01/2018

Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking is Legal—And Ethical—For Terminally Ill Patients Looking to Hasten Death

he ASCO Post, in partnership with the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), communicates news of evidence-based multidisciplinary cancer care to a broad audience of 30,000 oncology professionals and ASCO members. 


Professor Pope authors a monthly Law and Ethics in Oncology column that explores the legal and ethical issues oncologists must be aware of in this era of precision medicine and changing health-care policy, both to protect patients’ rights and to safeguard against potential legal jeopardy. In the June 25, 2018 issue, Professor Pope tackles VSED.


Terminally ill patients with cancer will sometimes ask their clinicians for help with assisted or hastened death. Although palliative care and hospice care can usually address the concerns of most patients, some have physical or existential suffering that is refractory to comfort and supportive care. Consequently, these patients sometimes persist in their requests for help with a hastened death.


Because many clinicians are unsure how to respond to such requests, here we clarify the status of medical aid in dying laws and one important, yet still obscure, option for terminally ill patients looking to end their lives: voluntarily stopping eating and drinking.

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