In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of Western Australia has ruled that the Brightwater Group would not be criminally responsible if it withdrew nutrition and hydration to a quadriplegic resident.

Mr Christian Rossiter had requested on numerous occasions that Brightwater stop feeding him through a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube.

Brightwater then sought a declaration from the court to determine if it would be lawful to meet his request.

Although Mr Rossiter had previously been the subject of a guardianship order, the state’s Adminstrative Tribunal revoked the order in March this year.

In making his landmark decision, WA Chief Justice Wayne Martin conceded that Mr Rossiter has full mental capacity.

“[He] 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,” said Chief Justice Martin.

“There is therefore no question of other persons making decisions on his behalf.”

Chief Justice Martin added that Brightwater was obliged to adhere to the wishes of a cognitive client.

“[It] seems to me to be absolutely clear that, after he has been provided with full information with respect to the consequences of any decision he might make, Mr Rossiter has the right to determine and direct the extent of the continuing treatment he receives, in the sense that treatment cannot and should not be administered against his wishes,” he said.

“If, after the provision of full advice, he repeats his direction to Brightwater that they discontinue the provision of nutrition and hydration to him, Brightwater is under a legal obligation to comply with that direction.”

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