Voluntary Palliated Starvation: A Lawful and Ethical Way to Die?
Journal of Law and Medicine, 22, pp. 376-386, 2014
Posted: 10 Jul 2016
Date Written: 2014
Increasingly, individuals want control over their own destiny. This includes the way in which they die and the timing of their death. The desire for self-determination at the end of life is one of the drivers for the ever-increasing number of jurisdictions overseas that are legalising voluntary euthanasia and/or assisted suicide, and for the continuous attempts to reform state and territory law in Australia. Despite public support for law reform in this field, legislative change in Australia is unlikely in the near future given the current political landscape. We argue that there may be another solution which provides competent adults with control over their death and to have any pain and symptoms managed by doctors, but which is currently lawful and consistent with prevailing ethical principles. ‘Voluntary palliated starvation’ refers to the process which occurs when a competent individual chooses to stop eating and drinking, and receives palliative care to address pain, suffering and symptoms that may be experienced by the individual as he or she approaches death. In this article, we argue that, at least in some circumstances, such a death would be lawful for the individual and doctors involved, and consistent with principles of medical ethics.
Keywords: Palliative care, Refusal of food and water, Withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, Medical law, Health law
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation