Exploring the option of voluntarily stopping eating and drinking within the context of a suffering patient's request for a hastened death

J Palliat Med. 2007 Dec;10(6):1288-97. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2007.0027.


There is an acknowledged difficulty in distinguishing between some morally and legally accepted acts that hasten dying, such as refusing life-sustaining treatment, and other acts that also hasten dying that are labeled as acts of "suicide." Recent empirical findings suggest that most terminally ill and suffering patients who voluntarily chose to stop eating and drinking as a means to hasten their dying generally experienced a "good" death. This paper explores the moral and legal status of a decision to stop eating and drinking as a means to hasten dying that is voluntarily chosen by a competent, terminally ill and suffering patient. The option of voluntarily forgoing food and fluid will be compared to other end-of-life clinical practices known to hasten dying, with emphasis on the issue of whether such practices can or should be distinguished from suicide.

MeSH terms

  • Deep Sedation
  • Humans
  • Opiate Alkaloids / therapeutic use
  • Palliative Care
  • Patient Participation*
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Starvation*
  • Suicide, Assisted / ethics*
  • Suicide, Assisted / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Terminally Ill* / psychology
  • United States


  • Opiate Alkaloids