Timothy E. Quill, MD; Susan D. Block, MD; J. Andrew Billings, MD
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Quill T., Block S., Billings J.; Terminal Dehydration as an Alternative to Physician-Assisted Suicide. Ann Intern Med. 1998;129:1082. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-129-12-199812150-00038
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1998;129(12):1082.
Although language is often misused or politicized in policy debates about end-of-life care , terms such as terminal sedation and voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED) should not be simply dismissed as surrogates for euthanasia or assisted suicide.
As suggested by Dr. Seely, we should use accurate language to define such acts . VSED is a more accurate term than terminal dehydration because it captures the willful nature of the act and clearly distinguishes it from the decision to withhold or withdraw artificial hydration for patients who cannot eat or drink because of their disease. Terminal sedation is distinguished from euthanasia by the fact that once the patient is comfortable, sedation is maintained but not increased, and no lethal injection is given. Terminal sedation is less easily distinguished from euthanasia on the basis of intentions: whether the patient or physician wished only to relieve suffering or hoped to hasten death . Dr. Seely's assertion that the decision to administer fluids “at this point in the dying process” does not influence survival is inconsistent with our experience and the published literature .
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Print ISSN: 0003-4819 | Online ISSN: 1539-3704
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