Voluntary Death by Dehydration

Deciding for death by dehydration requires more than one decision. Most methods of irrational suicide require only one momentary act. The person who desires a dignified, rational death by dehydration must reaffirm the decision not to drink any fluids every hour between the beginning of the process of dying and when death finally comes one or two weeks later.

If we consider only the hours of being awake, this means that the choice of death must be reaffirmed more than 100 times over this period of two weeks. Most temporary reasons for irrational suicide will not last long enough for death-by-dehydration to be achieved.

The suicidal person who wants to die because of the loss of love will find that the hunger and thirst of dying by this method is worse than the psychological pain of being rejected. So this suicidal person will be saved from the irrational urge by the slowness of the process of dying and by the fact that it is so easy to start drinking fluids again once the grief of the moment has passed.

In most cases that might otherwise result in irrational suicide, the person will resume drinking water and other fluids before any permanent damage has been inflicted on his or her body. Other methods of attempting an irrational suicide often do leave lasting (and sometimes permanent) damage.

But someone who is choosing a rational voluntary death will not be deterred from that purpose by the fact that it takes up to two weeks to die and that the process of dying is uncomfortable.

Everywhere in the world, drinking fluids is a free act and deciding not to drink fluids is also a free act.

This method of voluntary death is already completely within the reach of every person who knows the difference between drinking fluids and not drinking fluids.

Even persons already in hospitals have the complete right to order the end of all life-support systems, including, of course, the provision of fluids by any means.

All of us as rational, thoughtful persons already has all the power and authority needed to end our lives by giving up water and other fluids.

The older methods of voluntary death required various drugs or other kinds of equipment. Not everyone who made a wise and compassionate decision to end his or her life had easy access to the recommended means. And sometimes doctors and laws stood in the way of making an exit from life at the time one chose.

But death-by-dehydration is a method within the understanding and within the capacity of any person who knows that death will result if the body does not have enough fluids.

Anyone can choose this method of dying. And we might prefer this method because it shows that we reaffirmed our choice again and again over the last two weeks or our lives.

And we realize this is a good method because it prevents other people from committing irrational suicide. Lives that might otherwise be meaninglessly lost to irrational suicide will be saved because they were not encouraged to use a quick method, which did not allow them to rethink their decision or to look into other ways of solving their problems.

A painless and peaceful death has been the goal of the right-to-die movement since voluntary death was first conceived. Death by means of drugs was the recommended method for many years.

Drugs can certainly achieve death without pain and without emotional distress. But since drugs need to taken only once, they were subject to mistakes and abuse. Some of the deaths so achieved were determined to be premature in retrospect.

Opponents of the right to die will tell dire tales of suffering. But these should not be believed. Some of the symptoms they describe happen only after the candidate has become unconscious. So they matter only to those who are observing the death. And when everyone knows what to expect ahead of time, the changes of a body being dehydrated should not be too alarming.

SEE: New England Journal of Medicine Article to read the perspective of hospital personnel as to whether or not Dehydration is as painful as some opponents describe. It is not!

Being very thirsty is the main symptom we will experience if we choose this means of voluntary death. And there are methods of alleviating this problem.

The distress of having a dry mouth can be relieved by rinsing the mouth with water, by small sips of water, and by ice chips. And if the death by dehydration is taking place in a hospice or other medical facility, then medications can be provided that will relieve almost all of the distressing symptoms.

After about a week without water or other fluids, we will probably become unconscious. We should leave clear instructions that our decision is not to be reversed by others when we become unconscious.

Our minds will shut down first, followed by other parts of our bodies, until our hearts and lungs finally stop working. Then death will be declared by a doctor, who will explain on the death certificate the reasons for the voluntary death as well as the fact that we choose to end our lives in this way.

Source: University of Minnesota