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August 15, 2009

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Crippled Australian granted right to die

AN Australian judge ruled yesterday a quadriplegic man who says he cannot "undertake any basic human functions" has the right to direct a nursing home to stop feeding him and allow him to die.

The case sheds light on a gray legal area in Australia; patients have a lawful right to refuse lifesaving treatment but helping another to commit suicide is a crime punishable by a life prison sentence.

Chief Justice Wayne Martin told the Western Australia state Supreme Court that the staff and owner of the Perth nursing home caring for 49-year-old Christian Rossiter would not be held criminally liable if any of them withdrew his feeding tube according to his instructions.

Martin said Rossiter, a former stockbroker who broke his spine in 2004 in a road accident and was left a spastic quadriplegic after a fall last year, had the right to direct -- and refuse -- his treatment.

Rossiter welcomed the ruling and said he would take further medical advice before refusing food and water.

"I'm happy that I won my right to die," he said. "I want to end my life, but after I speak to a medical professional. There's a possibility I could still be dissuaded."

Rossiter appeared at court for yesterday's one-day hearing in a reclining wheelchair. He told the judge he was of sound mind and that he wanted to die.

Lawyer Linda Black also read a statement by Rossiter.

"I am unable to undertake any basic human functions," his statement said. "I am unable to blow my nose. I'm unable to wipe the tears from my eyes."


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