Australian Quadriplegic Wins the “Right” Commit Suicide



August 24, 2009 – August 17, 2009: By Hilary White

An Australian quadriplegic man has won a court case that will give him the “right” to commit suicide by refusing nutrition and hydration. Christian Rossiter of Perth, who was left unable to move after a car accident in 2004, thanked the court for the decision but said he may yet be persuaded to live after consulting doctors.
He told media, “I’m happy that I won my right to die, and (have) no sustenance and no water.” Mr. Rossiter, who is not suffering from a terminal illness, said he intends to end his life, describing it in court as a “living hell.”

“I want to end my life, but after I speak to a medical professional,” Rossiter said. “He could dissuade me. I have to seek advice. There’s a possibility I could still be dissuaded.”

Western Australia Chief Justice Wayne Martin ruled that it would be unlawful for the nursing care home in which he lives to continue feeding Rossiter against his wishes, as long as he had been informed of the consequences of refusing food and water.

Alex Schadenberg of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition told that the ruling is another chip in the legal walls protecting vulnerable patients.

The “sad thing” about the Christian Rossiter case, Schadenberg said, “is that the court has not given him a right nor have they respected his autonomy.”

“Rather, the court has given his care-givers the right to dehydrate him to death, because they are the executioners who will have to carry out the order.
“This decision is not a granting of freedoms to Rossiter, but rather an abandonment of Rossiter because the courts have deemed his condition to be so horrific that he is better off dead.”
The issue at hand, Schadenberg said, is that the court has failed to understand that hydration and nutrition are not a form of medical treatment, but rather a basic necessity of life.

“When we intentionally fail to provide hydration for a person, they do not die of a medical condition, but rather they die of dehydration, which is not a compassionate way to die for people who are not otherwise dying.”
Assisted suicide and passive euthanasia are making incremental steps towards legalisation around the world. In Britain, the Law Lords recently ruled that the law against assisting suicide must be “clarified,” a decision seen by campaigners as a step towards legalisation. Last month, the Royal College of Nurses changed their policy from opposition to one of official neutrality on assisted suicide.

Following the Law Lords ruling, the Medical Protection Society (MPS) announced that they are seeking “clarification” on the legal position of doctors who become aware that a patient is considering suicide. Dr. Nick Clements, Head of Medical Services at MPS said, “Doctors need clarification over whether they are at risk of prosecution if they provide reports about the patient’s condition or fitness to travel in the knowledge that this information will be passed on to clinics like Dignitas.”

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have asked for active opposition to attempts to legalise assisted suicide or to water down the law.

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