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September 22, 2009

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Court-fight quadriplegic dies at 49

AN Australian quadriplegic man who died yesterday after winning the legal right to refuse food and water had provided a means for people to end their life with dignity, said his lawyer and voluntary euthanasia advocates.

Voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide is illegal in Australia.

In 1996, Australia's outback Northern Territory introduced the world's first voluntary euthanasia laws. Four people used the laws to die by injection administered via a computer before the legislation was overturned in 1997.

There are no moves to reintroduce voluntary euthanasia laws.

Christian Rossiter, 49, died in a Perth nursing home after succumbing to a chest infection, five weeks after a court granted him the right to refuse food and water, his brother Tim Rossiter said.

"Christian Rossiter set a means where people could exit life with dignity, and that is something that he was very keen to do," his lawyer John Hammond said.

He added: "It's only when you're in a position like Christian that you can understand how terrible it is to meet each day, that life no longer has any value when you're in the pain that he was."

Australia's most high-profile euthanasia advocate, Dr Philip Nitschke, who helped those in the Northern Territory die, said Rossiter's case had set a precedent on the rights of a patient and the legal rights and responsibilities of carers.

"People who want to end their life by refusing treatment, by refusing fluids, refusing food, starving yourself to death, you have that option, the courts have made that clear," Nitschke of pro-euthanasia group Exit International said.


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