Voluntary Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED)

For some terminally ill people, aggressive treatment may not be helpful and may prolong the dying process. Under some circumstances, aggressive treatment may increase suffering, impair a person’s remaining quality of life, or even shorten life.

Many people are unaware that stopping treatment can result in a peaceful death. For example, people on dialysis for kidney failure may be able to die peacefully by stopping dialysis. However, stopping medical treatments may increase discomfort or suffering. Consulting with your physician and arranging for palliative (comfort) care are essential before stopping treatment.

Under some circumstances stopping treatment can be combined with hospice and palliative care and/or voluntary stopping eating and drinking (see below) to shorten the dying process and reduce suffering.

Voluntary Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED) is:

  • An effective way to hasten death by fasting from food and water.
  • Voluntary choice by person with decisional capacity.
  • Deliberately chosen because of present or imminent suffering.

End of Life Washington will continue to support clients choosing VSED and will be working toward improved and expanded education, support and advocacy on VSED in the coming year.

Support and Services

Our Client Support Services can help you:
  • Consider all end-of-life options. 
  • Talk to your family, health care providers, and friends about end-of-life choices and VSED 
  • Connect with hospices, death doulas, physicians, and caregivers who support VSED   
  • Assist in helping create VSED plan with individualized markers   

Request client support services for VSED:
Client Support Services form


More information:
Practical Guide to VSED – download pdf

Advocacy and Public Policy

End of Life Washington plans to pursue legislation in the coming year to support end-of-life options for all Washingtonians, including establishing a person’s right to decline oral food and water during the final stages of dementia, by advance directive, the same way other terminally ill people can decline life-sustaining medical treatments.

Sign-up for our e-news to receive action alerts about this legislation and learn more. 

Practical Guide to VSED

Download our Practical Guide to VSED - includes additional information and FAQs, Caregiver Advice and Managing Symptoms Suggestions, Sample Letter to Physician, statement, My Decision to Voluntarily Stop Eating and Drinking Statement

Download Practical Guide to VSED (pdf)

End of Life Washington provides advice and support to people considering all end-of-life decisions, including Death with Dignity. For more information about any of these end-of-life options and to request our free client support services, contact End of Life Washington – info@endoflifewa.org or 206.256.1636.