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Rossiter v Brightwater Care Group (Inc) [2009]

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Relevant Facts

The relevant facts of the case were as follows:

  • Brightwater Care Group (Inc) ("Brightwater") provides residential care for people with disabilities.
  • Mr Rossiter ("Rossiter") was admitted to one of Brightwater's facilities on 4 November 2008.
  • Since 4 November 2008, Brightwater has assumed the responsibility of providing all necessary services to Rossiter in conjunction with his own medical practitioner.
  • Rossiter is a quadriplegic and is therefore totally dependent on other people for the provision of the necessaries of life. 
  • Rossiter can only take nutrition and hydration through a percutaneous endoscopic gastronomy tube ("PEG") and not orally.
  • Rossiter has expressed a desire to die to staff at his Brightwater facility.
  • As Rossiter is a quadriplegic he is unable physically to do any acts himself to bring about his own death.
  • Consequently, Rossiter has directed staff at his Brightwater facility to discontinue providing him with nutrition and hydration through his PEG.
  • However, Rossiter does want hydration to continue to the extent necessary to allow the dissolution of painkilling medication that he takes.
  • Rossiter is aware of the general consequence of the discontinuance of nutrition and hydration, being death. However, there was conflicting evidence before the Court as to whether Rossiter knew of and/or was informed of the specific physiological consequences that flow from discontinuance of nutrition and hydration.
  • Rossiter has the mental capacity to give a direction with respect to his continued treatment.

Declarations

The Court made two declarations incorporating its findings discussed above. Those declarations were described in the following terms:

"If after the defendant [Rossiter] has been given advice by an appropriately qualified medical practitioner as to the consequences which would flow from the cessation of the administration of nutrition and hydration, other than hydration associated with the provision of medication, the defendant requests that the plaintiff [Brightwater] cease administering such nutrition and hydration, then the plaintiff may not lawfully continue administering nutrition and hydration unless the defendant revokes that direction, and the plaintiff would not be criminally responsible for any consequences to the life or health of the defendant caused by ceasing to administer such nutrition and hydration to him.”

“Any person providing palliative care to Mr Rossiter on the terms specified in section 259(1) of the Criminal Code would not be criminally responsible for providing that care notwithstanding that the occasion for its provision arises from Mr Rossiter’s informed decision to discontinue the treatment necessary to sustain his life.”

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