Mr. Medalie’s directive also specifies something more unusual: If he develops Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, he refuses “ordinary means of nutrition and hydration.”More at the link. Worth a read for those dealing with a family member with dementia.
A retired lawyer with a proclivity for precision, he has listed 10 triggering conditions, including “I cannot recognize my loved ones” and “I cannot articulate coherent thoughts and sentences.”
If any three such disabilities persist for several weeks, he wants his health care proxy — his wife, Beth Lowd — to ensure that nobody tries to keep him alive by spoon-feeding or offering him liquids. VSED, short for “voluntarily stopping eating and drinking,” is not unheard-of as an end-of-life strategy, typically used by older adults who hope to hasten their decline from terminal conditions. But now ethicists, lawyers and older adults themselves have begun a quiet debate about whether people who develop dementia can use VSED to end their lives by including such instructions in an advance directive...
Even in the few states where physicians can legally prescribe lethal medication for the terminally ill, laws require that patients be mentally competent and able to ingest those drugs themselves. Mr. Medalie would prefer that option if he were to become demented, preferably with the barbiturates dissolved in “a little vodka.”
But demented patients don’t qualify for so-called death with dignity. VSED is a lawful way to hasten death for competent adults who find life with a progressive, irreversible disease unendurable...
“Neglecting basic human comfort care is a big source of elder abuse complaints and criminal prosecutions.” And if a patient demands that his basic care be withheld in the event of dementia? “Nobody from a legal perspective has really meaningfully grappled with that,” he said.
In several states, including New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Hampshire, legislatures have banned the withdrawal of oral nutrition or hydration at all, no matter what a directive or a proxy says.
22 January 2015
VSED as an end-of-life strategy
Excerpts from Complexities of Choosing an End Game for Dementia: