Hospice Care for Patients Who Choose to Hasten Death by Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking


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Abstract

Some hospice and palliative care organizations are considering the merits of creating written policies to guide clinicians’ responses to patient requests for information and support for a voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED)–related hastened death. How hospice clinicians understand the meaning of a request to hasten dying and the legality and morality of the VSED option will determine their responses. Some may view a plan to intentionally hasten dying by fasting as an act of suicide that should be discouraged; others may regard VSED as an ethically appropriate decision to forego an unwanted life-prolonging measure. A discussion of the ethical and legal pros and cons of this option will be presented within the context of a case of a patient who requested hospice support for her decision to VSED. This case will illustrate a range of beliefs among team members and the potential benefit of having a written policy to help mediate interteam conflict.

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