Volume 16, Issue 4, Winter 2016
The Ethics of Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking
Encouraging VSED (voluntarily stopping eating and drinking) to hasten a patient’s death is immoral. The practice results in an obvious conflict between the autonomy of the patient and the principles of beneficence and non-maleficence that must guide the physician and other health care workers. Because VSED is an act of passive euthanasia, it harms the patient and thus compromises the integrity of the physician–patient relationship. Health care providers must avoid any involvement in VSED, whether by providing information about the practice or by administering palliative care while a patient is voluntarily starving and dehydrating himself to death. Instead of cooperating in the evil of euthanasia, health care providers need to advocate for the patient by refusing to do any harm and by addressing the reasons why the patient is requesting a hastened death.