New Study on patients who choose VSED

Researchers from Amsterdam UMC in the Netherlands recently published a new qualitative analysis on patients who chose to hasten their death via VSED. Below are details from the abstract, published in the November-December issue of the journal Annals of Family Medicine.

Purpose: Voluntary stopping of eating and drinking (VSED) is a controversial [SIC] method to hasten death. Little is known about why and how people come to VSED. This study assessed patients’ motives, how patients decide on VSED, and the ways in which they prepare for VSED and involve others.

Methods: We conducted a qualitative study in the Netherlands of 29 patients; 24 started VSED and 19 died. Thirteen patients were included before or during VSED and 16 afterward. We interviewed 17 patients, 18 relatives, and 10 professional caregivers. Inductive ideal-type analysis was used to describe typologies.

Results: Three patient groups emerged. The first group (12 patients) were older people who felt life was completed, for whom control was important. They prepared well for VSED, but could overlook the need for help and the emotional burden their decision could place on relatives. The second group (11 patients) were older care-dependent patients with a poor quality of life. They sometimes started VSED suddenly, and they relied heavily on (informal) caregivers to prepare and execute their plan. The third group (6 patients) were psychiatric patients with a long-standing but fluctuating death wish, most of whom were younger. They often prepared for VSED in secrecy or started VSED unprepared.

Conclusions: Patients embarking on a trajectory toward VSED are a very diverse group, with different care needs. Guidance for care during VSED needs to be applicable to all 3 groups.

To read more, visit Patients Who Seek to Hasten Death by Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking: A Qualitative Study – PubMed (

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