“VSED is a marathon, not a sprint, and like a marathon, takes lots of preparation.”
Kate Christie’s The VSED Handbook, a Practical Guide to Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking is a timely addition to an ever-growing body of literature and increasing discussions about end-of-life choice. End of Life Choices California receives numerous queries about VSED and it is one of the most viewed pages on our website.
The VSED Handbook, published following the VSED death of the author’s mother, is a guide to how to control the timing of one’s death by voluntarily stopping eating and drinking all foods and fluids. VSED, as the author explains, is an age-old method of dying, legal anywhere in the U.S. It is used mostly by elderly, frail individuals suffering from a poor quality of life, who don’t have a 6 month terminal diagnosis and are not eligible for hospice care or medical aid in dying (MAiD), if legal in their state. It’s the ultimate act of self-determination.
Immediately, I found many parallels and useful tips that can be offered to our clients, most of whom are exploring all end-of-life options. Here are just a few:
- Counseling clients and their family members regarding the individual’s right to choose. Helping the team come to terms with the fact that their loved one understands they are giving up some possible good days in order to avoid bad days, weeks, or months, due to the unrelenting progressive nature of their disease.
- The author emphasizes there are numerous ways to plan ahead and prepare well, including arranging for 24 hour in-person support for the duration.
- Creating the atmosphere, preparing the physical space where the person will ultimately die. Having a choice, with near-certain dates, gives family and friends the opportunity to connect deeply with their loved one, and offer heartfelt goodbyes.
Again, Kate emphasizes for us, dear readers, that individuals choosing to use VSED are making the choice to leave this world a little early, on their own terms, due to the reality that their illness will cause them to experience progressive losses of their selves, their personhood, their autonomy, and their dignity, and they are choosing to avoid these losses.
I highly recommend The VSED Handbook to anyone interested in learning more about this end-of-life option. This book is a love story, a guide, a reality check, and ultimately, an entire tool box both for the individual who is considering using VSED and his or her loved ones.
If you, or someone you know, are interested in learning more about VSED, please call 760-636-8009 or contact us here. One of our highly trained volunteers will be able to discuss this option with you and answer all your questions. To learn more about this excellent resource on our website, click here.
Lynne Calkins is a founding director and current board member of End of Life Choices California. She is also honored to serve as an active client volunteer. She developed EOLCCA’s client services volunteer program, launched EOLCCA’s MAiD Bereavement Group, and is a frequent speaker to a wide variety of audiences on end-of-life options. She campaigned vigorously for the passage of California’s End of Life Option Act in 2015 and is eternally grateful for the legacy of Brittany Maynard that helped make this law a reality for all Californians. She is passionate about the individual’s right to choose a peaceful death at the end of life.
EOLCCA supports a strong team of experienced volunteers throughout the state, ready to help anyone, anywhere in California with information and support regarding all end-of-life planning and choices, including aid in dying through the California End of Life Option Act. You can find comprehensive information on our user-friendly website. EOLCCA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and we rely on donations from individuals and foundations to enable us to offer these services at no charge to our clients. To support our work, find volunteer opportunities, or request an educational presentation for your group, please visit ways to help. Thank you!