by Aruna on  September 22, 2009 at 2:51 PM General Health News
Australian Quadriplegic Dies
A quadriplegic in Australia who won a landmark legal battle to starve himself to death by refusing food died on Monday, his family said, ending an existence he described as 'living hell'.

Christian Rossiter, 49, who was paralyzed from the neck down, died in a nursing home in the western city of Perth in the early hours after developing a chest infection, his brother Tim Rossiter said in a statement.

"I thank all those who have made Christian's life, in his final years, as comfortable and as dignified as possible," he said.

Lawyer John Hammond, who five weeks ago won a court battle allowing Rossiter to refuse food and medication, said his client had welcomed death and empowered all severely ill people who wanted to die on their own terms.

"He wanted to die and it will be some relief that he is now dead because he underwent so much pain in his final years of life," Hammond told public broadcaster ABC.

"Rossiter set an important precedent, and that was the right of people to refuse food and medication when they saw fit, so he's left behind an important legacy."

In the historic ruling a court said that Rossiter, a former stockbroker and outdoor adventurer who became a quadriplegic following two separate accidents, had the right to refuse to be fed.

Western Australia's chief judge Wayne Martin said Rossiter had the right to direct his own treatment and that his carers, Brightwater Care Group, would not be held criminally responsible for complying with his wishes.

Rossiter had asked the care group at least 40 times to stop feeding and hydrating him through a tube to his stomach before he took the case to court in an effort to end his suffering.

"This is a living hell," he told reporters through a tracheotomy tube during the court case.

"I'm Christian Rossiter and I'd like to die. I am a prisoner in my own body. I can't move, I have no fear of death, just pain. I only fear pain."

Hammond said Rossiter's case gave people the chance to die with dignity and he expected many would take advantage of the court ruling.

"I think people will start saying more often to doctors and nursing staff, 'I now want to leave this world, can you please let me do that in the most painless way possible.'"

Right to Life Australia president Veronica Andrew said Rossiter should have been given access to mental health treatment.

"It appears he was in a state of depression and wanted to end his own life," she said. "He should have been given mental health treatment for that.

"To be told that your life is not worth living is a depressing message for the courts to send and a backward step for Australia."

Pro-euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke said that Rossiter's poor health had claimed his life before he could starve himself to death.

He said Rossiter was receiving pain relief medication when he saw him last week but refused to take antibiotics for the chest infection that eventually killed him.

"He hadn't gone down the path he had fought to establish, that is that he could have stopped eating and drinking and bring about his death that way," Nitschke said.

"In some ways the infection intervened and it saved him going down that rather torturous route."

Source: AFP

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