Comment: A right to die humanely

In permitting a person to starve to death, a West Australian judge has opened a debate about legal access to more humane ways to die, writes Professor George Williams.

Williams oped inside

A landmark case in WA has set an important precedent for the right to die.

In permitting quadriplegic Christian Rossiter to starve to death, WA Chief Justice Wayne Martin has also opened a debate about whether people should be allowed legal access to more humane ways to die, says UNSW's Professor George Williams.

Rossiter's carers took his request to court, fearful they would be charged with murder. Australian law does not permit doctor-assisted euthanasia or otherwise positively recognise any right to die.

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Williams, who is the Anthony Mason Professor of law, said it is "remarkable that this outcome has been achieved in the face of what might have seemed the clear terms of the criminal law. The result speaks volumes for the strength of self-determination."

He argues the decision has exposed the need for legislative change: "Allowing a person to starve themselves to death over a fortnight is far from the most compassionate or dignified outcome".

Read the full opinion piece at the SMH online.