End-of-Life Choice, Death with Dignity, Palliative Care and Counseling

Barbara Coombs Lee

Barbara Mancini Vindicated by Expose About Dismissed “Assisted Suicide” Case Against Her

“Complete perjury. It’s a bald-faced lie.”

That was Barbara Mancini’s reaction in the July 3 Philadelphia City Paper to testimony by the hospice nurse during the preliminary hearing in the year-long “assisted suicide” case against her for the death of her terminally ill 93-year-old father, Joe Yourshaw. Mancini had been under a gag order until the judge dismissed the case in February citing “the lack of competent evidence.”

This outstanding investigative report includes numerous revelations about the case:

  1. The first interview with Schuylkill County Coroner David Moylan about his claim on Joe Yourshaw’s death certificate that his manner of death was “homicide.”
  2. Provides new details about this outrageous prosecution by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office, including a threatening e-mail sent by the prosecutor to Barbara Mancini’s first defense attorney.
  3. Compassion & Choices’ key role in defending Barbara Mancini and publicizing her case.

Below are excerpts of the story:

“‘When I found out what that death certificate said, I remember saying to my husband, ‘I’m screwed. They’re using me for politics,’” says Mancini.

“… records show that Moylan and [arresting officer] Captain Durkin were present at Yourshaw’s autopsy, though each works about an hour’s drive away. Moylan says he recalls being there, but not what was discussed. The section of the autopsy report dealing with the circumstances of death, which is the information Starling-Roney would use to determine manner of death as homicide or suicide, reflects that much of the information he was working with was hearsay that Mancini never had a chance to deny. More

Celebrating a Year of Choice in Vermont

Hello Friends,

One year ago today, we achieved a remarkable victory in Vermont when Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a new law giving Vermonters more freedom over their end-of-life choices. The act made Vermont the fourth state to grant this liberty and the first to do so by vote of its legislature.

That historic moment was just the beginning.

As soon as the law went into effect, Compassion & Choices launched a comprehensive effort to give residents, caregivers, healthcare professionals, insurers — anyone and everyone touched by the law — the informed, supportive guidance they deserved — and which the hard-won law itself needs to succeed.

Celebrate Vermont’s one-year anniversary.

Make a special contribution to Compassion & Choices today.

From decades of hard-won progress, we’ve learned that what happens after a law goes into effect is just as important as what happens before. Careful, expert implementation grounds these laws securely in patient awareness, public understanding and medical practice. It’s why we can consistently point to Oregon, Washington and Montana and say with utmost certainty: These laws work. More

It Takes all Kinds

Those who follow our issues have been delighted to see a diverse and energetic movement emerging before them. Compassion & Choices’ transformation from a single organization to leader of a powerful movement is happening so fast it’s hard to keep up with all the exciting developments and changes every month.

Issue advocacy becomes a “movement” when it gets big, strong and visibly diverse. That’s happening to us right now. You’ll see growth, strength and diversity everywhere on the pages of this magazine. Especially diversity.

Opponents like to say end-of-life dignity and choice matter only to the white, healthy, educated and unchurched. They’ve always been wrong about that. Born during the AIDS epidemic, Compassion & Choices’ work on aid in dying always included large contingents of LGBT individuals, educated or not. Progressive religious congregations have always been behind us. People with disabilities have always known death with dignity furthers the principle of autonomy they hold dear. People of color have always wanted their healthcare wishes known and honored. More

A Teachable Moment

Like so many women my age, I cherish time with my grandchildren. We go to parks and beaches, we play — and, of course, we read.

My three-year-old granddaughter loves a book called The Tree Lady. It’s about Katherine Olivia Sessions, a remarkable woman whose passion for trees and gardens earned her the nickname “Mother of Balboa Park,” after San Diego’s magnificent oasis of greenery and culture.

“Kate” made it her life’s work to turn San Diego from a brown patch of pasture into a verdant woodland. She identified trees that thrive in dry soil — jacaranda, eucalyptus, Italian cypress — and collected seeds and specimens to plant throughout the city. Balboa Park, which she filled with trees to prepare for the world-famous 1915 Panama-California Exposition, is her crowning glory.

Kate lived a long, full life. But, my granddaughter stopped short when I came to this sentence in The Tree Lady:

“She continued gardening and planting trees
until her death in 1940.”

This unvarnished statement unleashed a torrent of questions. “Why did she die, Grandma B? Will you get old, too? Are you going to die?” Maybe she was thinking of my own time growing gardens and landscapes. More

Texas Hospital Keeps Pregnant Body Functioning: Where Could This Lead?

By Barbara Coombs Lee, PA, FNP, JD, President Compassion & Choices

Marlise Munoz is dead. She died Nov. 26, probably of a pulmonary embolus, when she was 14 weeks pregnant. But John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas refuses to turn off the machines and let the family claim the body of their beloved.

This family is grieving a tragic loss. Their grief is all the more devastating because the firm wishes of their loved one – the woman paramedic, the daughter and wife who knew she never wanted to be maintained in an unconscious state – mean nothing. Texas law says life support may not be withdrawn from a pregnant patient and the hospital chooses to characterize Munoz’s dead body as a patient on life support.

Medical ethicists across the nation call it bad law and erroneous interpretation, but that doesn’t change this outrageous situation. More