End of Life Law in Australia

Messiha v South East Health [2004] NSWSC 1061

Messiha v South East Health [2004] NSWSC 1061

Messiha, a 75 year old man, suffered a cardiac arrest which deprived his brain of oxygen. He was admitted to intensive care, unconscious and in a deep coma. He received mechanical ventilation and artificial nutrition and hydration. Messiha needed to have his mouth, nose and throat suctioned, his eyes taped down to prevent corneal ulcers, and he was doubly incontinent. His treating doctor planned to withdraw treatment and provide end of life care including pain and symptom management. Messiha’s family applied to the Court to prevent the withdrawal of treatment, but were unsuccessful.

The Court accepted evidence from three doctors that continued treatment was not justified on medical grounds. It did not agree with the family that Messiha’s best interests required treatment to continue. The doctors’ unanimous opinion was that there was no prospect of a significant recovery, and the treatment was futile except to briefly prolong Messiha’s life. The Court also considered the treatment to be burdensome and intrusive.