Rossiter case not isolated, says nurses union boss, Aug. 17, 2009.
Nurses union boss Mark Olson has welcomed a Supreme Court ruling which could allow a quadriplegic nursing home patient to starve himself to death, claiming WA nurses have long helped patients to die in this way without court approval.
Mr Olson, WA secretary of the Australian Nursing Federation, claimed some nurses had compassionately helped patients starve but were then left fearing the legal ramifications for doing so.
He would not reveal details of the cases to the media or the authorities in order to keep secret the identity of the nurses involved.
But he said the landmark ruling on Friday clarified the law and protected his members from being held criminally responsible for a patient's death in such a situation.
"It's something that happens more frequently than the general public realise, though it doesn't happen regularly, and to have (the law) clarified makes sense," Mr Olson said.
"They (nurses) are always concerned (when they are involved in withholding food and water from patients who cannot feed themselves). They are concerned about relatives making complaints - they may complain to the medical facility or to the medical board.
"And then there's always the possibility, a worst case scenario, of being charged.
"Nurses have the same level of concern as anyone else would have, but the law is not clear."