VSED: Real Alternative to Aid in Dying

Those calling for the legalization of aid-in-dying often highlight the necessity and importance of legalizationthrough denigrating alternative ways to hasten death.  A particularly favorite target is VSED (voluntarily stopping eating and drinking).

In the Telegraph, this week, Bruce Fogle writes about his mother Aileen and her decision to die in Ontario.  “You won’t give me anything so I have decided to stop eating and drinking. What do you think?”  Since assisted dying was not yet legal, Fogle laments that his mother had no option but to starve herself. 

“Mum was telling me she had decided to die. This time, she was only just ahead of her time. Thanks to that Canadian Supreme Court ruling, people in her circumstances will now be able to do so, painlessly, of their own free will, simply by asking for and taking pills, without putting themselves or their families through a needlessly protracted and inevitably uncomfortable end of life. But mum did not have that luxury. Her only option was to refuse food.”

Oddly though, Fogle’s own description of his mother’s VSED is neither “needlessly protracted” nor “inevitably uncomfortable.”  Indeed, reported studies of VSED show that it is a safe and comfortable “exit option.”

I do not mean to suggest that aid-in-dying is unnecessary.  Some individuals may prefer that exit option.  And AID has a far longer track record of proven safety and effectiveness.  

But even in Oregon, where both options are available, many choose VSED.  It is important to have an option that accord with one’s own  preferences and values.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.