The Australian high court has issued an important ruling in favor of a quadriplegic man’s right to die. Christian Rossiter will be allowed to refuse food and water and the nursing facility will not be criminally liable for allowing him to kill himself.
Rossiter, 49, said that he is inclined to die but primarily wanted to confirm his right to do so.
Chief Justice Wayne Martin acknowledged the significance of this case in light of Rossiter’s condition: “Mr. Rossiter is not a child, nor is he terminally ill, nor dying. He is not in a vegetative state, nor does he lack the capacity to communicate his wishes. There is therefore no question of other persons making decisions on his behalf. Rather, this is a case in which a person with full mental capacity and the ability to communicate his wishes has indicated that he wishes to direct those who have assumed responsibility for his care to discontinue the provision of treatment which maintains his existence.”
Since 1988, Rossiter has been left with slight movement in his feet and one finger. He is fed through a tube in his stomach and needs full time assistance for every function. He has stated publicly “I can’t move. I can’t even wipe the tears from my eyes. And I’d like to die. I’m imprisoned in my own body. I have no fear of death. Just pain.”
Given his earlier active life as a cyclist and outdoor person, it is a living hell for him.
While I agree with the opinion, I wonder why starvation is the focus of the opinion as opposed to allowing a less painful and prolonged means. Because he cannot physically take lethal drugs, this is the only means available to him — as opposed to allowing the staff to assist him in a more humane method.
For me, this raises a basic question of constitutional rights. I hold a more libertarian view of the right of people to make such choices so long as the person is a mentally competent adult.
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