Molly Walsh is a geriatric dentist in Boston, Massachusetts.
Last June my father tried to kill himself. He was 91 and completely clear mentally but suffering from terminal heart disease. He had become very frail and when he could no longer live alone, he decided he preferred death to living out the rest of his life in a nursing home, or having his children care for him. He failed at the attempt, but it affected him greatly and he became even more frail as a result of his inability to end his life without assistance. He was admitted to hospice, where he refused all medications, food, and water. His dying took eight days which were generally peaceful, but he endured some very significant pain in the hours just before his death.
Our family is large and none of us were ready to lose him, but we all respected his wisdom and desire to control his own destiny. He had been exceptionally courageous in trying to maintain a quality of life after his wife of 67 years died, but he was tired and weak, and as a retired physician he knew that he had limited time to make his own choices. He should not have had to elect starvation to be allowed to choose the time of his death.
Any psychologically intact and terminally ill person should be able to make their own choices when they are dying.