Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking in Switzerland From Different Points of View: Protocol for a Mixed-Methods Study

Journal Paper/Review - Dec 21, 2018


Stängle S, Schnepp W, Mezger M, Büche D, Fringer A. Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking in Switzerland From Different Points of View: Protocol for a Mixed-Methods Study. JMIR Res Protoc 2018; 7:e10358.
Journal Paper/Review (English)
JMIR Res Protoc 2018; 7
Publication Date
Dec 21, 2018
Issn Print
Brief description/objective

"To die with dignity" has reached the significance of a core value in democratic societies. Based on this unconditional value, people require autonomy and care. "Voluntary stopping of eating and drinking" (VSED) represents an alternative to assisted suicide because no one else is involved in the action of death fastening, even though from outside, it might be considered as an extreme form of passive euthanasia. However, there are no data available about the prevalence and frequency of either explicit VSED or the implicit reduction of food and liquid in Switzerland. The responsible and independent ethics committee of the Greater Region of Eastern Switzerland (EKOS 17/083) approved this study.

The objectives of the study were to research the prevalence and frequency of different types (implicit and explicit) of VSED in Switzerland; to explore the experiences, attitudes, handling and recommendations made by palliative care experts; to develop a practical recommendation about VSED, which will be validated by experts in Delphi rounds.

This protocol describes a convergent mixed-method design to answer the research questions. In the first step, a cross-sectional trilingual survey (in German, French, and Italian) will be carried out to obtain a comprehensive representative picture of VSED in Switzerland. In the second step, qualitative research will be carried out by focus group interviews with palliative care experts. The interviews will be recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using generic coding, and embedded in an explorative descriptive qualitative approach. Based on the results of the first two steps, a practical recommendation will be developed. Experts will validate the practical recommendation in Delphi rounds.

The enrolment was completed in summer of 2018. Data analysis is currently underway and the first results are expected to be submitted for publication in the end of 2019.

The results of this study will provide important information about the prevalence and frequency of VSED as well as the interpretation of palliative care experts about handling VSED in daily work. Furthermore, the practice recommendation will help professionals and institutions to improve the quality of care in patients and their relatives who made the decision to fasten death by VSED.