Contact: Sean Crowley, 202-495-8520
End-of-Life Legal Experts Say State’s Case Has No Legal Foundation
(Pottsville, Pa. – Aug. 1, 2013) Following a preliminary hearing today, legal experts from the nation’s leading end-of-life choice group urged the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office to drop an assisted suicide charge against a woman who was present when her 93-year-old, terminally ill father ingested morphine to relieve his pain and later died because the case has no legal foundation. Authorities allege that Barbara Mancini, a registered nurse from Philadelphia, handed her father, Joe Yourshaw of Pottsville, a partially filled bottle of morphine at his request. They claim that this act constitutes “assisted suicide.”
Joe Yourshaw was dying. He suffered from multiple medical conditions that caused him extreme pain: end stage diabetes, extensive heart and cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disease, and arthritis. Dying patients have a constitutional right to adequate pain medication, even if it advances the time of death. The U.S. Supreme Court recognized this right in two landmark cases, Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill, both brought by Compassion & Choices’ predecessor organization, Compassion in Dying.
“Attorney General Kane has said that she ethically cannot defend an unconstitutional law,” said Kathryn Tucker, Director of Legal Affairs and Advocacy for Compassion & Choices and lead counsel in Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill. “The U.S. Supreme court has recognized the constitutional right of dying patients to adequate pain relief even if it advances the time of death. Kane should respect Joe’s right to ingest his pain medication and not prosecute a loving daughter who was at her dying father’s bedside when he exercised this constitutional right.”
A visiting hospice nurse, who arrived shortly after Yourshaw ingested the medication, called 911, despite the fact that he had a Do Not Resuscitate order. He was revived at the hospital, but died there four days later after contracting pneumonia. Ironically, hospital doctors prescribed more morphine to treat his symptoms before he died.
Compassion & Choices is urging concerned citizens who want to stop this unjust prosecution to contact Attorney General Kane to urge her to drop the case. You can call her office at 717-787-3391 and/or email a letter to her by visiting www.compassionandchoices.org.
With over 30 local groups and 40,000 members and supporters throughout the United States, Compassion & Choices leads the end-of-life choice movement. We support, educate and advocate. Learn more at www.compassionandchoices.org.