(Harrisburg, Pa. – Feb. 24, 2014) Compassion & Choices praised today’s decision by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane not to appeal the dismissal of a felony “assisted suicide” charge against Philadelphia nurse Barbara Mancini. Compassion & Choices and Pain Treatment Topics filed an amicus brief in support of the defense’s motion to dismiss the case.
Mancini faced up to 10 years in prison if she was convicted for allegedly handing her dying 93-year-old father, Joe Yourshaw, his prescription morphine at his request four days before he died.
“This abuse of power caused extraordinary emotional and financial hardship for the Mancini family, violated Joe Yourshaw’s desire for a peaceful death and wasted taxpayer resources on an unsubstantiated case,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney who was an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years. “Attorney General Kane’s decision to accept this dismissal should serve as an important lesson to prosecutors nationwide: Government officials should not interfere in families’ private medical decisions.”
When she dismissed the case on Feb. 11, Schuylkill County Judge Jacqueline Russell said: “The Commonwealth’s case appears to have been based on little independent investigation, significant hearsay, including double hearsay received from third persons — speculation, guess, and defendant’s alleged incriminating statements.”
“I welcome the news that Attorney General Kane has decided not to appeal Judge Russell’s decision,” said Barbara Mancini. “I am grateful to all who rallied to support me throughout this ordeal: my loyal family, Compassion & Choices, the many opinion writers who publicly opposed my prosecution and all the people who sent letters of encouragement. This support was a silver lining in the dark cloud that enveloped our lives, and it sustained us. My family and I will now try to move forward and heal.”
“Attorney General Kane’s statement that Judge Russell ruled that statements attributed to Barbara Mancini were ‘inadmissible based on a procedural rule’ is dead wrong,” said defense attorney Fred Fanelli. “Judge Russell said there was no evidence of a crime independent of these statements, as required by law. And Barbara never could rebut the veracity of these statements because of the gag order issued at the request of the Attorney General.”
Compassion & Choices provided pro bono legal advice and publicized the case nationally, generating 25 national and local columns and editorials criticizing Attorney General Kane for pursuing this absurd case. More than 7,500 people called, or signed an online letter or MoveOn.org Partner Petition sponsored by Compassion & Choices urging Attorney General Kane to drop the unjust prosecution of Barbara Mancini.
On Feb. 12, Compassion & Choices presented to the Mancini family a check for $20,000 that it raised through its Compassion & Choices Action Network’s Legal Defense Fund to offset their legal fees in excess of $100,000. Barbara Mancini has been on unpaid administrative leave from her nursing job. Her husband, Joe Mancini, has had to work extra shifts as a paramedic to make up for the lost family income.
Police claimed Barbara, whom 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 on Feb. 7, 2013. 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 died four days later, ironically after the hospital gave him more morphine to ease his pain.