Decades ago, when I started my practice as an estate-planning attorney, there were rumblings about how modern medicine was changing the way people died. For most of human existence death came quickly from an illness or injury about which physicians could do nothing. Now, advances in medical knowledge allow us to battle death, giving us more time with our loved ones. But this same gift often makes the dying process a long, slow struggle against an incurable disease or untreatable injury. Sometimes, after a long struggle with illness and with full knowledge that death is certain and the future holds nothing but suffering, a person will decide to voluntarily stop eating and drinking (“VSED”), which hastens the inevitable end.
Every modern medical advance to make our lives better brings with it new challenges and problems we must address.