While attending nursing school, I've been taught about euthanasia and palliative and end-of-life care, but "Stopping Eating and Drinking" (September 2009) allowed me to see the patient's perspective.
I'd never understood why anyone would want to end her or his life prematurely. Reading about Gertrude helped me to understand this issue for the first time and caused me to think about how I would feel if most of what I loved disappeared.
I support the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine's preference for the term "physician-assisted death," rather than "physician-assisted suicide." The former conveys that patients are being aided in their efforts to take control of their condition, hopefully helping family members to better accept this decision.
I've previously disagreed with the act of hastening death, because I believed that a higher power was responsible for making those types of decisions. But I now understand that patients who choose to stop eating and drinking suffer greatly, and that they've given much thought to the decision to end their lives.