The decision to stop eating at the end of life wd gaster theory


There isn’t really a "typical" person who chooses to stop eating at the end of their life, and this choice may be made by adults and children alike, with a wide range of medical conditions. According to one study, in which hospice nurses were surveyed in Oregon, the typical person who chooses to voluntarily stop eating and drinking is often elderly and considers himself to have a poor quality of life. That said, those who are younger or still have a fairly good quality of life might make this decision as well, in the hopes of avoiding the poorer quality of life which may occur by prolonging death. Lack of Suffering

The overwhelming conclusion of evidence to date suggests that choosing to stop eating does not increase suffering at the end of life. In the study mentioned earlier, it was found that 94 percent of nurses reported these people’s deaths as peaceful. Part of the Normal Dying Process

The cessation of eating and drinking is a normal part of the dying process that typically occurs days to weeks before death. Once the body becomes mildly dehydrated, the brain releases ​ endorphins which act as natural opioids, leading to euphoria and often decreased pain and discomfort.

Very few people complain of feeling hungry or thirsty after the first couple of days. Mucous membranes may become dry as dehydration sets in, which is why some patients may want to moisten their mouth with drops of water for comfort. Studies looking at intravenous fluids have found that providing these fluids does not reduce the sensation of thirst if present. Instead, the use of oral swabs and lubricants can often reduce the sensation of a dry mouth when it occurs. Stopping Eating vs. Physician-Assisted Suicide

As noted earlier, stopping eating or drinking is not, in general, considered a form of suicide in any way, either on the part of the person who is dying, or the healthcare professionals who concur with a person’s choice. That said, there are some jurisdictions where voluntary stopping of eating and drinking may be legally prohibited under the rules governing suicide assistance, with regard to medical support in the decision-making process. This is currently an area of active discussion by researchers and ethicists worldwide.

There are differences between the two with regard to suffering as well. When death by voluntarily stopping eating and drinking was compared with death resulting from physician-assisted suicide, nurses reported that people in the former group had less suffering and less pain, and were more at peace than those in the latter group. Nurses reported that both groups had a high quality of death, which may sound strange, but means that their deaths proceeded with lower levels of pain and struggle. Length of Survival

Once a person stops eating and drinking, death usually occurs within two weeks. The person may continue to take small amounts of water to swallow pills or moisten the mouth, and these small sips of fluids may prolong the journey towards death by a few days. Making a Decision About Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking

The decision to stop eating is not a question anyone ever anticipates asking. If you or a loved one are considering this option, make sure to discuss all of your concerns with your physician. She will likely want to make sure that there aren’t treatable conditions, such as depression or untreated pain, that are contributing to your decision. She may also refer you to a hospice social worker or a member of your religious organization (if applicable) to discuss this decision further.

It’s also important to remember that you or your loved one can change your mind. If stopping eating or drinking leads to suffering or a sense of hunger or thirst, a person can certainly start eating or drinking again. It is not an irrevocable decision. Since a sense of hunger is so uncommon at the end of life, experiencing this may mean that it’s not yet time.

Your loved ones may have opinions on whether you should stop eating, but this is your choice alone. No one can tell you whether you should voluntarily stop eating and drinking. Depending on your quality of life, the amount you are suffering, and your personal belief system, you can decide if this choice is right for you. For Loved Ones of Someone Who Chooses to Stop Eating

It can be difficult to watch a loved one choose to stop eating and drinking at the end of life. It’s important to remember that the decision belongs to them alone, no matter how you feel about the decision. For those who are healthy and aren’t experiencing pain, it can be difficult to accept this choice. If you have a sense of hunger it can be hard to imagine that another does not. This is also a time when friends and family are often suffering anticipatory grief, a grief that can be as challenging as that which occurs after a loss. If you are struggling, reach out to your hospice team. Hospice care is designed to help the whole family, not just the person who is dying. Bottom Line

The cessation of eating and drinking is a normal part of the dying process, and is usually very peaceful, without a sense of hunger or thirst. People may choose to stop eating and drinking as a way to have some control over their death. This decision can generate mixed emotions, but the bottom line is that when death occurs after a person stops eating and drinking it does not occur because of starvation or dehydration. It occurs because of the underlying medical condition responsible for the dying process. In this setting, stopping eating may hasten death somewhat, but usually involves very little suffering. Most often, the voluntary stopping of eating and drinking results in a peaceful death which honors the person’s last wishes.