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Australian Dies After Court Win

September 21, 2009

An Australian quadriplegic, who last month won a landmark legal right to starve to death, has died.

Christian Rossiter, 49, died in a nursing home in Perth, West Australia, after developing a chest infection.

A former outdoor adventurer, he had won a legal battle to ask his carers not to give him food or water.

His case strengthened advocates of assisted suicide, in the week when Britain’s top legal officer is to issue new guidelines on the issue.

“I thank all those who have made Christian’s life, in his final years, as comfortable and as dignified as possible,” his brother Tim said.

Lawyer John Hammond, who five weeks ago won a court battle that allowed Christian Rossiter to refuse food and water, said his passing would have come as a “relief”.

“I think Christian will be remembered as someone who was very brave and took up a fight which will give a lot of people comfort,” Mr Hammond told local television.

“Essentially he won the right to refuse food and medication so he could die if he wanted to,” he said.

Western Australia’s chief judge Wayne Martin said Mr Rossiter had the right to direct his own treatment and that his carers, Brightwater Care Group, would not be criminally responsible if it complied with his wishes.

Mr Rossiter had asked the Brightwater Care Group at least 40 times to stop feeding and hydrating him through a tube to his stomach before he went to court to end a life he described as a “living hell”.

“I’m Christian Rossiter and I’d like to die. I am a prisoner in my own body. I can’t move,” he told reporters. “I have no fear of death – just pain. I only fear pain.”

Voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide is illegal in Australia and Britain, but Britain will this week clarify when a person will and will not be prosecuted for assisting suicide.

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 national government overturned the legislation in 1997.

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