Australian High Court Rules In Favor of Right to Die

85px-Australian_Coat_of_ArmsThe 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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9 thoughts on “Australian High Court Rules In Favor of Right to Die”

  1. The underlying principle upon which this “euthanasia” line of reasoning is severely flawed. The problem is simply this: You are assuming that corporations running insurance NOW are not already making life and death decisions concerning patient treatment. Unless you don’t know of anyone who has ever been denied coverage despite having insurance. So the idea that decisions that could have a fatal impact to patient care is totally in your hands right now? “That’s a deluuuusion,” as Lewis Black would say. Today, someone is being denied a procedure or medicine that will KILL THEM. This decision was not made by them or their doctor, but by some accounting functionary at an insurance company who decided that since the patient wasn’t a “premium customer” that their treatment just wasn’t as important as the guy paying with the black AmEx. Do you as a citizen have ANY say in how an insurance company is ran absent being a major shareholder?

    Not a damn bit.

    Even less than you do with the government. So by all means, let’s keep denying basic health care for everyone based on this fearful delusion about “death panels” because we already have “death panels”. They are called “insurance companies”. They wrongfully deny coverage every day and people die from it. That is even worse than euthanasia as it removes the patient’s free will from the equation in situations where it is a quality of life question and at the same time kills people who may not want to die and it does so based on PROFIT, not COST. If you think otherwise, you’ve never met an accountant. They don’t care how much they spend as long as they make X amount of profit from the transaction, X being an arbitrary number set by greed. That’s the nature of transactional based free market systems. This is why Sweden has some of the most regulated private insurers in the world and yet everyone gets coverage and no one gets bankrupted – REGULATION. Also something the insurance companies fight tooth and nail against. Free markets and medicine ultimately do not mix. That’s the reality of it. Everyone has had a life time of that “free markets cure everything!” bullshit forced down your throats to the point that people can’t even see that a free market in health insurance is how we got to this point in the first place.

    Reasoning based in fear is often not good reasoning and some times it’s not reason at all. This is a perfect example. People decrying changing a broken system because of propaganda designed to convince you that the government wants to kill you for profit when insurance companies already do this everyday of the week? Wake up and smell the propaganda. Wake up and look at who is feeding it to you: the insurance and health care industry. Protecting their PROFITS. They don’t care about your life. They never have. They care about the cash. Because unless you are actually treating a patient or making a drug? You’re a systemic parasite drawing away treatment dollars to your pocket. Dollars that could be spent on patient care instead of some insurance company jackass’s Bentley.

  2. IS:

    Your point is a fair one. If government totally controls medical care, and euthanasia is included in the spectrum of care, how do we prevent the government from coercing euthanasia to reduce costs or prefer certain groups?

    A good question.

    Better that the government not be involved at all. I have no doubt that some Medicare patients today have their lives shortened through aggressive use of certain opiates or other measures. Some of those patients are probably not voluntary participants in what happens to them.

  3. Puzzling:

    I agree that your life is your own to end as you see fit and that the state should not make laws prohibiting suicide.

    I am unsure if we should pass laws allowing doctor assisted suicide. Where would that lead? Jack Kevorkian was a whack job.

    Euthanasia has a bad connotation, it is an external force requiring death whereas suicide is an internal desire. How do you meet the needs of someone like this man without ending up forcing Aunt Betty to take the blue pill?

    I also found this and it is very interesting indeed. It talks about the very things you were talking about on the Palin thread. This health care reform bill needs to be stopped:

  4. Correction:

    It was not the decision of the High Court of Australia. Rather, it was a decision by the Chief Judge of the West Australian Supreme Court.

  5. The choice to exist or not is the ultimate self-determination. The lack of wisdom in some choosing this option by some should not deprive those with serious quality of life issues from being able to end their suffering on their terms with as much dignity in tact as they can get. It’s the humane thing to do as a society.

  6. I agree, JT. If I don’t own my life, who does?

    The counter-argument is that euthanasia is not about a right to die, but the right to kill.

    Let’s look at that for a minute. If I own my life, then it is my property. The counter-argument is like saying that I cannot allow someone else to destroy my own property, even though it is mine! It’s like saying that giving property away to charity is morally equivalent to theft by the charity. The counter-argument to euthanasia misunderstands the concept of owning your own life.

    The Australian court only took a half step in this case. It admits that life is owned by the individual, not the State. However, it only allows taking of that life by the individual himself, not others. This thinking is incomplete, and will result in needless and inhuman suffering.

  7. Dr. Jack is out of Prison now. Unfortunately his health got to the extent that they were afraid he was going to die in Prison. An expense that the State don’t have the pay if they are not incarcerated. Just think about the future wave of early releases, States being financially burdened and corporations getting tax breaks.

    I support a persons right to die. The Hemlock Society is alive and well. What interest is it of the government if a person has chosen the exact time, date and circumstances to end ones life? It is a personal choice, not a right of the government to intrude and take the only decision that is clearly within your control.

    Good for Australia.

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