Should Physicians Assist Terminally Ill Patients with Death by Fasting?

October 20, 2017

(Medical Xpress) – Many people suffering from debilitating and incurable illnesses or elderly patients who are frail and incapacitated sometimes choose to stop eating and drinking as a means to hasten their death. The decision is often accompanied by a request for medical assistance to ease the distress that can ensue after stopping eating and drinking. According to a new study on the ethical evaluation of these situations, the presumption that death by voluntary fasting can be viewed as ‘natural’ is flawed. “Dying by voluntary stopping eating and drinking (VSED) is a form of suicide, and the provision of medical assistance towards that end would, at least in some cases, be equivalent to suicide assistance,” says medical ethicist Ralf Jox, Assistant Professor at the Institute for the Ethics, History and Theory of Medicine at LMU Munich.

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