October 7, 1994

Death by Dehydration

Write about this, David. Tell others how this worked for me. I'd like this to be my gift. Whether they are terminally ill, in intractable pain, or, like me, just knowing that the right time has come for them, more people might want to know that this way exists. And maybe more physicians will help them find it.

Virginia Eddy, 1994

It has been known since man started thinking, that if you don't have food or water, you will die before too long. Yet, when people write about a person ending his own life, it is almost always in terms of some violent death or the use of drugs. Derek Humphry's book Final Exit considers every means of committing suicide but this one; the one method that a person needs no assistance to accomplish -not even someone to provide the drugs or the equipment. Dr. Kevorkian is superfluous --he is entirely unnecessary. If you decide to end your life this way, all that is needed is that the people around you be aware of, and agree not to interfere with what you are going to do; and that you have the will power to carry it off. You can even do it without anyone around if you have a place where no one will come and try to rescue you. It is legal and painless.

What provoked this article is a paper by Dr. David M. Eddy, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, entitled A Conversation With My Mother.

Anyone who has tried fasting knows that the desire for food passes after a while, and the same seems to be true for water. If you drink no liquids, you will lapse into a coma, which is painless. After a short while you will simply die. You can go without food for a lot longer than you can go without fluids. People who go on a hunger strike take fluids, or it would be a very short strike.

A distinct advantage, or disadvantage, to this method is that you can reverse your decision at any time before coma sets in. An additional advantage is that no one has to have it on his conscience that he helped you to die, nor will anyone "get off" on your dying as some people do. You simply say your goodbyes, or you don't say them, and you just go. You can put as much or little drama into it as you wish.

In that remarkable movie Whose Life is This Anyway, a man who is paralyzed from the neck down wants to leave the hospital so that he can go home and die. There is a legal hearing as to whether he should be allowed to do this. The judge gives him the right to leave the hospital. In the end, the physician offers to help him to die in the hospital. No way is a member of the medical profession going to let someone depart this life without the benefit of medical science. It is written somewhere that a physician should be in attendance when you are born and when you die. Some people disregard this rule, but, like not saying "excuse me" when you burp, it is considered rude.

I think that if life became unbearably painful for me, with no hope of recovery, that I would choose this way. For an inveterate do-it-yourselfer, it's the only way to go.

Dr. Eddy's "A Conversation With My Mother"

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