Posted on June 13, 2020 at 4:00 AM
Jane Lowers and colleagues offer a nice “Overview of Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking to Hasten Death” in the Annals of Palliative Medicine.
Voluntarily stopping eating and drinking is a means of hastening death. Unlike euthanasia or medical aid in dying, which are available only in certain jurisdictions and with assistance from health care professionals, the ability to die by voluntarily stopping eating and drinking is determined by ongoing patient choice, although clinical and caregiver support is recommended. Few studies have examined the incidence of patients choosing to stop eating and drinking; studies in the Netherlands and United States suggest patients choosing this route have concerns about both physical and existential suffering.
This article presents an overview of voluntarily stopping eating and drinking, including guidance for clinicians, legal permissibility, and ethical discussions about whether the act constitutes suicide and how clinicians might respond to requests for information or support.