Our third story in a series on Voluntary Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED) comes from Don’s wife Claudia. We are grateful for those who shared their stories so that others might understand an end-of-life option for those who face a dementia diagnosis.

VSED is a choice to avoid the emotional and physical suffering that comes with losing memory, quality of life, and autonomy. It has been practiced since ancient times but within the American culture of life-prolonging medicine, many do not realize VSED could be an option for those facing dementia or other neurodegenerative diseases. We are grateful for Don’s clarity in choice, for those who supported him and for his peaceful death.

Don dealt for years with high blood pressure, diabetes, macular degeneration and several other health concerns.  All of these were conditions he could live with and manage while enjoying his favorite beaches in Hawaii and hobbies at home.

What he couldn’t live with was his 2010 diagnosis of dementia and the eventual cognitive degeneration he would endure.  He was crystal clear that he would choose to end his life before that happened.  With his wife and North Star Claudia by his side, he set out to understand how to make that happen.

Attending a Death Café he learned about Voluntary Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED).  He knew right away this would be the choice for him. While he had entertained the idea of other extreme measures, to avoid a memory care unit, he knew VSED would be the right choice for his family and loved ones.

He worked with A Sacred Passing and End of Life Washington to put all of the necessary documents in place and identify the markers that would indicate when he was still capable of making the choice for himself- a requirement to be able to VSED.

He communicated to his family and friends that this was his end-of-life choice and found a physician that would support him.  In April of 2019 he recorded a video sharing his clear and autonomous decision to VSED, and with love and care from his family, he started the process.  Within days, he achieved his goal and ended his life on his terms, just the way he wanted it.