[black small square] In a recent letter, Vicki Norris, RN, BSN, equated a terminally ill patient's choice to refuse food and water with euthanasia or assisted suicide ("A Good Death?" Letters, January 2004). Not knowing Vicki's age or years of experience, I wonder how often she's dealt with the dying process. I'm 60 years old and have been a hospice nurse. My experiences and nursing judgment lead me to believe that death is part of the eternal continuum and that everyone should have the choice to die with dignity.
I've talked to many people over age 60 who've freely shared their wishes with me. Most don't think of dying by self-imposed starvation as euthanasia. Being kept alive without dignity isn't "living" to many of us. We in the medical field need to honor our patients' wishes.