End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

“Assisted Suicide” Defendant Barbara Mancini Files Motion to Dismiss Caseby Chris

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Contact: Sean Crowley, 202-495-8520-c, scrowley@compassionandchoices.org

Groups to File Motion Thursday Asking Court to Accept Amicus Brief in Case

(Pottsville, Pa. – Sept. 17, 2013) Defense attorneys for a Philadelphia woman, who faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of “assisted suicide” for allegedly handing morphine to her dying father, today filed a motion to dismiss the case based in part on two U.S. Supreme Court decisions. In both cases, Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill, the nation’s highest court recognized that states cannot erect legal barriers to aggressive treatment of end-of-life pain and suffering, even when it advances the time of death (for more details, see pages 5-7 of the motion at http://community.compassionandchoices.org/document.doc?id=1324).

On Thursday, Compassion & Choices, whose predecessor organization, Compassion in Dying, brought these U.S. Supreme Court cases, and the organization Pain Treatment Topics will ask the court for permission to submit an amicus brief in support of defendant Barbara Mancini’s motion to dismiss the case.

“To prosecute a loving daughter who sat at the bedside of her dying 93-year-old father and handed him his morphine is an attack on the rights of terminally ill patients and their families,” said Compassion & Choices Director of Legal Affairs and Advocacy Kathryn Tucker, who is co-counsel to amici on the motion and argued the Glucksberg case in the U.S. Supreme Court. “Barbara Mancini’s father, Joe Yourshaw, had the right to as much pain medication as he needed to get relief.”

“Compassion & Choices has 30 years of experience with end-of-life care and has been in the forefront of establishing the rights of terminally ill patients,” added Tucker. “We urge the court to allow us to participate as an amicus in this case because we are the nation’s leading advocacy voice for terminally ill patients.”

Police claim Barbara, a nurse whom her father, Joe, had designated his medical power of attorney to ensure his wishes would be honored, handed him a partially filled bottle of prescribed morphine at his request. Joe drank it to ease his severe pain from end-stage diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure. A hospice nurse arrived at Joe’s home after he drank the morphine and found him unresponsive. Despite his clear instructions to hospice caregivers and a do-not-resuscitate order, a hospice employee called 911. EMTs responded and transported Joe to the hospital, where he was revived. Joe was horrified to learn that police had charged Barbara with assisted suicide. Joe died four days later, ironically after the hospital gave him more morphine to ease his pain.

“Most Americans believe government has no place at the bedside of patients dying in the privacy of their home,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, who practiced as an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years. “We urge Pennsylvania Attorney General Kane to use her discretion and refrain from applying the assisted-suicide statute in the facts of this case. This prosecution could chill end-of-life pain care, where the proper dose is the dose that relieves suffering.”

If the court grants the motion for permission to file an amicus brief in support of the defense motion to dismiss the case, the brief likely will be in due 30 days. Oral arguments on the motion likely will be scheduled for later this fall.

More than 4,100 people have signed Compassion & Choices’ MoveOn.org Partner Petition to urge Attorney General Kane to drop the unjust prosecution of Barbara Mancini. In addition, 17 national and state columns and editorials have criticized or questioned Kane for pursuing this unjust case.

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.