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Stopping Eating and Drinking

Schwarz, Judith K. PhD, RN

AJN, American Journal of Nursing: September 2009 - Volume 109 - Issue 9 - pp 52-61
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000360314.69620.43
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Voluntarily stopping eating and drinking, in which death occurs within one to three weeks of beginning the fast, is increasingly explored in the literature and mainstream media as an option to be discussed with "decisionally capable," suffering patients who want to hasten their dying. The author uses an example from her experience to describe stopping eating and drinking, as well as other clinical practices associated with hastening dying; explores whether this practice can or should be distinguished from suicide; and discusses the ethical and legal implications for nurses.

How suffering patients who are "decisionally capable" can realize their wish to hasten their dying in a legal, peaceful, and dignified way—plus a discussion of other end-of-life options.

Judith K. Schwarz is a regional clinical coordinator at Compassion and Choices, a nonprofit end-of-life advocacy and consultative organization.

Contact author: judithschwarz@earthlink.net.

The author of this article has no significant ties, financial or otherwise, to any company that might have an interest in the publication of this educational activity.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.