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Old 08-14-2009, 05:16 PM   #1
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Australian Quadriplegic Allowed to Starve Self to Death

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(CNN) -- An Australian high court ruled Friday that a quadriplegic man has the right to refuse food and water and can be allowed to die, a rare legal finding that some see as a major victory for right-to-die campaigners.
Euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke said Rossiter's case is significant because his mind is fully functional.

Euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke said Rossiter's case is significant because his mind is fully functional.

The ruling means that the nursing facility in which Christian Rossiter has lived since November 2008 cannot be held criminally liable for allowing the patient to die, the Supreme Court of Western Australia said.

"I'm happy that I won my right to die," Rossiter, 49, said afterward. But he added that he will further consult with a doctor because he may change his mind.

A leading Australian right-to-die advocate called the ruling a significant victory.

"I don't know that many people will want to die this way. But for people who do, it's a very important decision," said Dr. Philip Nitschke, founder and director of Exit International, a leading global voluntary euthanasia and end-of-life advocacy group.

Nitschke noted that Rossiter's case is significant because his mind is fully functional.

"This is the first time that it's come up with a person that's rational and lucid," Nitschke told CNN. "This is unusual. It's very rare."

Chief Justice Wayne Martin noted that distinction in his order, saying, "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."

Some family and right-to-life groups opposed Rossiter's request.

"Really, what we should be doing is looking after each other rather than facilitating an escape," John Barich of the Australian Family Association said in a TV interview.

Peter O'Meara, president of Western Australia's Right to Life Association, said, "The law which is being applied can be a dangerous precedent."

Rossiter has suffered a series of injuries since 1988 that have left him with limited foot movement and the ability to wriggle only one finger. He is fed through a stomach tube. He relies on staff at the Brightwater Care Group nursing facility in the city of Perth for such routine care as regular turning, cleaning, assistance with bowel movements, physical and occupational therapy and speech pathology.

Australian law gives patients the right to refuse life-saving treatment, but helping someone commit suicide is a crime that can carry a life prison sentence. The Brightwater nursing facility sought the ruling to make sure it would not be held liable if it complied with Rossiter's request to stop all nutrition and hydration, except to be given enough liquid to make it possible to take pain medication.

Rossiter attended the hearing in a wheelchair, breathing through a tracheotomy tube in his throat. He told the judge he wants to die.

It's a point he has been making publicly.

"I can't move," Rossiter said in a televised interview this week. "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."

Rossiter pointed out in a recent interview with the PerthNow news outlet that he once led an active life.

"This is living hell," he is quoted as saying. "I used to be a cyclist, I used to be a keen walker. I bushwalked around the world. ... I've rock climbed in Yosemite Valley in California up very steep cliffs. I've got a degree in economics and now I can't even read a newspaper, I can't turn the pages."

Rossiter joined the Exit International right-to-death organization about three months ago, said Nitschke, who talked with him before the hearing.

Nitschke said Rossiter appeared "very happy" afterward.

A Brightwater executive said the company appreciates that the court's ruling has relieved the nursing facility of any liability.

"The whole organization has been most concerned for Mr. Rossiter but also concerned for our own legal standing and this has clarified things greatly," said Penny Flett, the company's chief executive.

While hailing the victory, Nitschke decried the fact that Rossiter will have to undergo a slow and painful death through starvation, rather than having a quicker and painless way to end his life. Because he cannot use his hands, Rossiter must rely on others to withhold treatment rather than being able to take his own life. Switzerland has an assisted suicide law, and Rossiter has considered going there.

"It's a bit sad that the best that Australia can come up with," Nitschke said, "is that we can let a person like that starve to death."
I have mixed feelings about the right to die issue. On one hand, I do see that those who want to die are leading unhappy, miserable lives and wouldn't want to live as they are. I can't imagine what it would be like to be so active and then be literally frozen and caged.

But on the other hand, what about people like Christopher Reeves? He was able to live his life despite his paralysis. He may not have been physically active, but he was still able to do things, such as direct movies. At the same time, wanting to die sounds too depressing and hopeless, when there is some hope. Reeves was an example.

So, is euthanasia, assisted suicide and all the others, wrong? Should humanity work on making people's lives more worthy of living? Should humanity concentrate more on finding cures to paralysis and cancer rather than rushing to end people's pain?

If you're wondering if I ever knew someone who lived in pain or wished to end someone's pain, my mother had a brother who suffered for years with dementia. While my mother does not advocate right to die, she does not judge those who opt for assisted suicide.
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Old 08-14-2009, 05:25 PM   #2
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Breathing or brain activity do not equal life, they just equal alive.

Only the individual can quantify their quality of life.
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Old 08-14-2009, 05:44 PM   #3
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I would only want to be let go if I was brain dead. If my mind was still working I would rather have the opportunity to see those I love and have somebody turn the newspaper pages for me than give up.

If euthanesia becomes more common in the west it will become much more important for people to legally state what they would want when they are healthy so if they can't communicate then their wishes would go ahead.
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Old 08-14-2009, 09:32 PM   #4
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Just like with Terri Schiavo, I have huge issues with the method with this poor bloke. I'll always support a person's right to choose their end if the case is sound and they are capable with enough mental faculties. Starvation, however, is just not a conscionable method.
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Old 08-14-2009, 10:01 PM   #5
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The inevitable result of an atomised society is that individuals feel atomised. This is why I advocate for community and family values.
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Old 08-15-2009, 02:25 AM   #6
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What a crock of shit for this poor man.

Starvation...

He should be offered euthanasia by the State if they are going to let him do it.
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Old 08-15-2009, 03:10 AM   #7
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What a crock of shit for this poor man.

Starvation...

He should be offered euthanasia by the State if they are going to let him do it.
i agree. i'm glad they're "allowing" him to starve to death. personally, if a person wishes to end their life, they should be allowed to do so. it's a sad decision that should not be made lightly. if a person is in a position medically where they do not wish to continue living, euthanasia should be allowed.
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Old 08-15-2009, 03:24 AM   #8
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Just like with Terri Schiavo, I have huge issues with the method with this poor bloke. I'll always support a person's right to choose their end if the case is sound and they are capable with enough mental faculties. Starvation, however, is just not a conscionable method.
definitely. there's nothing wrong in my mind with euthanasia, but starvation is a shitty way to go. i mean, it's currently legally the only choice and you've got to do what you've got to do, but clearly the bigger issue at hand is that starvation sucks and there should be a proper way of doing something like this.
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Old 08-15-2009, 11:03 AM   #9
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I would only want to be let go if I was brain dead. If my mind was still working I would rather have the opportunity to see those I love and have somebody turn the newspaper pages for me than give up.
I don't think any of us could definitively say what we would want if we were in a situation like this man's for 20+ years. I certainly can't even begin to imagine, and I judge nobody for the choices they wish to make regarding their end of life.
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Old 08-15-2009, 03:05 PM   #10
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I don't think any of us could definitively say what we would want if we were in a situation like this man's for 20+ years. I certainly can't even begin to imagine, and I judge nobody for the choices they wish to make regarding their end of life.
That's why when I have it in legal documents and you don't judge this guy but judge that I may not really know what I would want, then my choice is protected from others making that choice for me.

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The inevitable result of an atomised society is that individuals feel atomised. This is why I advocate for community and family values.
It's nice to see a libertarian that isn't completely atomized. I like the old Japanese duty that parents were to be taken care of by the youth in old age and sickness. The golden rule is never out of date.

The question is how to convince secular people to follow the golden rule. With religion proven wrong on many areas of cosmology and science, the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater leaving a dry connection between government bureaucrats and the individual with little or no intermediaries like religious organizations. Some charities do good work (and some don't) but I still find that the family has the most motivation and the farther the degrees of separation from family the more narcissism we encounter.
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Old 08-15-2009, 08:14 PM   #11
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That's why when I have it in legal documents and you don't judge this guy but judge that I may not really know what I would want, then my choice is protected from others making that choice for me.
I am saying to you that I don't believe anyone in here, you included, is capable of knowing how they would feel in this situation, 20 years from now.

Perhaps you're some kind of special individual who can foresee exactly what you would feel and think after more than two decades of life in agony. I don't believe that I'm capable of comprehending something like that until I have experienced it. My hunch is that no person really knows until they are in that position themselves, but I'm not going to press the point with you.
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Old 08-15-2009, 08:17 PM   #12
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The inevitable result of an atomised society is that individuals feel atomised. This is why I advocate for community and family values.
haha. you are soooo full of shit, mr. moneybags.
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Old 08-16-2009, 03:11 PM   #13
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I am saying to you that I don't believe anyone in here, you included, is capable of knowing how they would feel in this situation, 20 years from now.

Perhaps you're some kind of special individual who can foresee exactly what you would feel and think after more than two decades of life in agony. I don't believe that I'm capable of comprehending something like that until I have experienced it. My hunch is that no person really knows until they are in that position themselves, but I'm not going to press the point with you.
Right I see your point but there already are legal avenues to protect your choice when you can't communicate it because deciding to die and actually going through it are two different things. This is important because if we relied on doctors and bureaucrats they will error on euthanesia for their purposes because of the precise problem you mentioned. In fact even if they can imagine they would call it unsatisfactory and choose for them along with their self-interest. Unsatisfactory feelings has more to do with expectations. If I lost my arms and legs it obviously wouldn't be ideal but I've learned ways of coping with expectations and so have others with similar handicaps and still retain some equanimity and enjoyments (albeit limited) and would prefer to exist than not. If euthanesia is allowed which there is some argument for due to free choice we have to understand that it should be only when the individual can make a free choice and has a real determination to go through it. If someone can't communicate their choice despite having most of their reason intact I'm uncomfortable with giving others the decision.

I would prefer, while I'm now healthy, to go through the typical paralysis and ALS scenarios with a lawyer and tell them when I would like to be let go or not, especially when death happens to us all eventually anyways, and even if my imagination won't be 100% like the actual experience. Also I would rather be let go than to be forced to die because my body continues on its own. This Quadriplegic can read the newspaper or watch TV with someone elses help so I would prefer that to non-existing. He seems to be able to communicate as well. I don't need a large imagination to know I would prefer to be alive. I would just need to be able to abandon hopes for rock climbing in order to calm down.

There's also the part where those against euthanesia don't like it when psychologists and doctors who are for it can actually try and convince the person to die further interfering with the patient's psychology. I also saw in a documentary about Canadians that believe in assisted suicide that talk about experiences of using "exit bags" where the person agrees to the suicide but once the "exit bag" is being used the patient can often flail to stop the procedure and the person doing the assistance agrees to force the arms down (this was a radical Christian priest with his own home Church that called forcing the arms down a "prayer") intefering with free choice again.

Like all arguments from the left and right it can get more complicated when we have others acting on our behalf and even worse when we think we want something but then go through with it and we may change our minds. If this guy is determined to go then let him but if there is any sign that the person is changing their minds there would need to be someone there to stop the procedure. Can you imagine the psychopaths would would want this kind of job? Euthanesia would have to be heavily monitored and supervised if it were to be legal.
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Old 08-16-2009, 08:10 PM   #14
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haha. you are soooo full of shit, mr. moneybags.
Considering my post was actually a criticism - at least by implication - of the neo-liberalist/globalist wing of capitalism, I'm kind of surprised by your response.

You don't actually think it's as simple as "conservative/right wing = always pro capitalism, liberal/left wing=socialism", surely?

Read some Guy Debord.
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Old 08-16-2009, 11:08 PM   #15
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Considering my post was actually a criticism - at least by implication - of the neo-liberalist/globalist wing of capitalism, I'm kind of surprised by your response.
i just can't take anything you post here seriously at this point. you're all over the map.

i wouldn't necessarily think euthanasia to be a result an atomized society (which we surely live in, i can agree on that point). a belief in personal autonomy should absolutely allow an individual to gauge their own quality of life and determine their future. that said, it is virtually impossible to say whether or not a communitarian society would discourage (so to speak) such choices by way of more meaningful social relations. it's possible, but, nevertheless, personal autonomy should be respected.

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You don't actually think it's as simple as "conservative/right wing = always pro capitalism, liberal/left wing=socialism", surely?
frankly, i can't think of any so-called "right" ideologies that do not espouse a capitalism of some sort. i suppose the hyper state capitalisms of fascism/stalinism appear to be "socialist", but surplus value is appropriated the same way as any capitalist firm (just by different actors) and there is no meaningful workplace democracy. did you have something in mind, regarding a "right" ideology that is not pro-capitalism? i would be interested to read about it.

i am a socialist, but not liberal (that is, in the economic sense) -- and i know many liberals who are not socialists.

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Read some Guy Debord.
don't know much about him, but a cursory examination of wikipedia reveals a class analysis and collectivism that i would have expected to be anathema to you. moreover, he appears to be distinctly anti-family :
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The remains of religion and of the family (the principal relic of the heritage of class power) and the moral repression they assure, merge whenever the enjoyment of this world is affirmed–this world being nothing other than repressive pseudo-enjoyment.
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