Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Condemmed Prisoners Not The Only Ones Given Choice of Last Meal (VSED)

 If you thought condemned prisoners were the only ones given the chance of choosing a last meal, think again.

Most of us should remember the case of Terri Schaivo, a 41 yr. old brain damaged woman, who was legally euthanized by a court order, at the requested of her husband.  The case garnered national coverage as pro-life groups banded together to try and save Terri, all to no avail. The judge ruled in favor of her husband's request that Terri's life be ended, and barred her family from all attempts to save her  - even though Terri's family had generously offered to care for her on their own, with no cost to her husband. Terri's family were forced to witness their daughter die a long slow agonizing death by dehydration and starvation, which took 13 days for her to finally succumb.

Now, VSED (short for 'voluntarily stopping eating and drinking) is being suggested for those who have decided it's time to die - and there need not be any terminal life-threatening condition to choose VSED.  Medical publications and law journals, as well as the popular press are already reporting positively on the option of VSED.

The New York Times posted on 12/15/08, Estelle's story in their "New Old Age" blog:  "Estelle wasn't dying of anything". With her daughter's help, Estelle searched for ways to "organize her own death."  So, after researching various options for ending one's life, Estelle and her daughter finally opted for V.S.E.D., voluntarily stopping eating and drinking.  The NY Times blog continued to report, that both women were very impressed with their amateur decision.

Like Estelle, Virginia, who was also in her 80's, with no life-threatening conditions, was guided by her adult son, (himself a physician) to research ways of ending her life, finally settling upon VSED as the best way to dispose of mom. Virginia enjoyed her last piece of chocolate cake, as she celebrated her 85th birthday with her family, before she stopped eating and drinking.

Lily, another woman in her 70's, also stopped eating and drinking, after seeking advice from a suicide advocacy group. Her last meal - homemade raspberry ice cream.

Advocates of VSED, contend that it is a painless death, where one just peacefully slips away - as the husband of Terri Schiavo protested to the world, on how Terri passed away.  Terrie's family however, who witnessed her slow and torturous death, tell a different story.  Death from VSED  comes about through the devastating effects of dehydration, and can take anywhere from five to twenty-five days to occur.  One can go without food for quite some time - but the body's need for water, of which we are mainly comprised of, is far more crucial.  The famous Gandhi of India, who went on long fasts, in his attempts to gain peace among his peoples, never deprived himself of fluids.  If he had, he would never have survived his long fasts ... and the fasts would have been a lot more excruciating.

Terri Schiavo was administered medications, in an attempt to alleviate her discomfort, and Estelle's daughter explained that her mother received medications as she died. Virginia's son, as a physician, was able to provide her with morphine and a sedative to relieve her discomfort. Lily's physicians also provided her with morphine and a sedative - however - Lily's daughter later admitted, that her mother howled with anguish during her final days of death by dehydration.  And Terri Schaivo's family describe Terri's long agonizing death, as anything but peaceful and painless. 

Now, the assisted-suicide advocacy group, 'Compassion & Choices' (formerly called the Hemlock Society) has launched a nation-wide campaign to promote VSED as a legal option to hasten death.  Compassion and Choices, in their promotional material, "Peace at Life's End" describe VSED as a "gentle natural passing."  To this end, some medical and legal publications are now suggesting that health care professionals be obligated to inform patients of the availability of VSED, as an end-of-life option.

Nursing home residents, the frail, the elderly and people with disabilities will be at particular risk for being offered the option of VSED.

In Vermont, last May, a law was passed creating a statewide, single-payer health care system, titled: "Green Mountain Care".  Discussions soon followed on how to ensure ways for Vermont to cut health care costs.  Healthcare rationing was one suggested measure - can you guess what the other cost-saving measure was?  Yes, you guessed it -  passing a law that allows physicians to  help end a patient's life under controlled circumstances, known as "death with dignity," was the other proposed cost-saving option.

So, now, not only condemned prisoners will have the option of "choosing a last meal".  Now, if you or your loved ones decide that your life is no longer worth living ... VSED ... (voluntarily stopping eating and drinking) can be one of your options - and you or your loved one, will have to decide what your "last meal" will be ... before you die of starvation & dehydration.  What will your last meal be?

Information in this blog was derived from the "Patients Rights Council" newsletter - 2011-  Vol. 25, No. 4.  The Patients Rights Council (formerly the International Task Force on Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide) is a human rights group formed to promote and defend the right of all patients to be treated with respect, dignity and compassion and to work with individuals and organizations to resist attitudes, programs and policies which threaten the lives of those who are medically vulnerable.

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