Australian court hears landmark right-to-die case

Last Updated: Friday, August 7, 2009 - 14:16

Perth: An Australian court on Friday heard an unprecedented case brought by a nursing home seeking advice on whether it can stop feeding a paralysed man who has begged to be allowed to die.
Christian Rossiter, 49, developed spastic quadriplegia after separate accidents in which he fell 30 metres (100 feet) from a building and was then hit by a car whilst riding his bicycle.

"I`m Christian Rossiter and I`d like to die. I am a prisoner in my own body. I can`t move. I can`t even wipe the tears from my eyes," he told reporters this week. "I have no fear of death -- just pain. I only fear pain."

The former stockbroker is fed through a tube into his stomach, and has requested his nutrients be withdrawn so he can end his "living hell."

Brightwater Care Group, which administers Rossiter`s round-the-clock care in a Perth nursing home, on Friday sought a Western Australia Supreme Court ruling on whether it could comply with his wishes.

"(The requests) place Brightwater in a position of conflict between its duty of care and its obligation to respect Mr Rossiter`s request, and raises complex issues at law," lawyers for the group said.

A ruling in Rossiter`s favour would set a landmark legal precedent in Australia, where euthanasia is a crime punishable in some states by life in prison for those convicted of assisting it.

Australia sparked international controversy in 1995 when the Northern Territory`s provincial government legalised euthanasia.

Renowned euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke helped four people to die in the nine months before the national government intervened to overturn the law in 1996.

Rossiter, an outdoor enthusiast who loved rock-climbing, hiking and cycling before his final accident in 2004, is also demanding the court convene at his bedside so it can register the full extent of his condition.

"I believe (quadriplegics) should be allowed to exercise their freedom of choice but my choice is to die," he said.

"I have to be fed through a tube and I have to have my nutrients piped into my stomach," Rossiter added.

"I can`t wipe my own bottom. I`m fed suppositories every three days to induce me to open my bowels and it’s a very painful process that can take six to eight hours," he added.

Nitschke, the controversial head of the euthanasia group Exit International who has been dubbed ‘Doctor Death’, said Rossiter`s case was highly important to the campaign for legally assisted suicides.

Wayne Martin, chief judge of Western Australia state, set the case down for hearing next Friday.

Bureau Report



First Published: Friday, August 7, 2009 - 14:16

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