End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

compassion & choices

Group supporting ‘aid in dying’ bill launches advocacy push

[Excerpt from article]

A national advocacy group has launched a wave of telephone calls in Massachusetts to encourage support of a bill that would allow certain terminally ill patients in this state to obtain a prescription to end their own lives.

Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit group that advocates for “aid in dying” across the country, said it has volunteers and a calling service reaching out to potential supporters in the state asking them to press their lawmakers on the issue. A spokeswoman said the group is also running targeted ads about the issue online and in print.

As part of the push, about two dozen people gathered in the State House on Wednesday morning to lobby lawmakers to move the bill forward.

Read the full article here.

“How We Die” Author Praised for Spurring National Death-with-Dignity Discussion

Connecticut Physician Sherwin Nuland Criticized Futile Medical Treatments for Terminally Ill

(Hartford, Conn. – March 5, 2014) Compassion & Choices praised Dr. Sherwin Nuland, the Yale surgery professor and author of an award-winning book, “How We Die,” for initiating a national dialogue about death with dignity.  Nuland died from prostate cancer on Monday at age 83 at his home in Hamden, Connecticut.

“Dr. Nuland was heroic in bringing conversations about dying out of the closet. He openly acknowledged medically assisted dying exists in states like Connecticut where it is considered illegal. Our own fight is to legalize aid in dying and bring a surreptitious practice into the open, where it is safe and accessible to everyone,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, a former ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant who coauthored the nation’s first death-with-dignity law in Oregon.

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Advocates Lobby For Aid In Dying Legislation in Connecticut

by Hugh McQuaid | CT News Junkie | Jan 29, 2014

HUGH MCQUAID PHOTO

Portraits of “aid-in-dying” supporters will be displayed in the State Capitol for two weeks beginning Friday as part of this year’s push for legislation to allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives.

Advocates of the proposal announced the new campaign to legalize the practice at a Wednesday morning press conference in the Legislative Office Building.

The photos will hang along the State Capitol concourse from Jan. 31 to Feb. 14 and feature advocates seeking legislation to permit terminally ill patients in Connecticut to end their lives with the help of a doctor. Each picture also will include a quote like “Quality of life includes peaceful death.”

Permitting a doctor to prescribe drugs to end the life of a terminally ill and mentally competent patient is legal in only a handful of states. Vermont, Oregon, Washington, and Montana all have laws permitting the practice. A court decision from earlier this month could make New Mexico the fifth state in which it is legal.

A group called Compassion and Choices Connecticut is hoping build on an effort that began in this state last year and see a bill raised during the legislative session that begins next week.

Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, and other lawmakers raised similar proposals last year which resulted in the first public hearing on the topic before Connecticut’s legislature. The hearing was widely attended and drew testimony from residents both for and against the law.

Ultimately the bill was never passed out of the Public Health Committee. Ritter said she’s urged the committee’s leadership to raise the bill again this year but that decision has yet to be made. Ritter and other supporters said it will take time for lawmakers to consider the issue. 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

Columnists/Editorials Opposing Prosecution of Barbara Mancini for Death of Dying Dad Joe Yourshaw

Across the country, columnists and editorial writers that cover their communities are starting to notice the plight of Barbara Mancini, a loving daughter who is being unjustly prosecuted by an overzealous attorney general in Pennsylvania. It’s not enough that Barbara lost her father recently, now she is being prosecuted for “assisting suicide,” when all she allegedly did was hand her father a bottle of morphine to help alleviate his suffering.

Columnists/Editorials Questioning Prosecution of Barbara Mancini for Death of Dying Dad Joe Yourshaw

Philadelphia Daily News, Oped by “Murder, She Wrote” novel series author Donald Bain, “For Barbara Mancini, there is no master detective … or justice,” Feb. 5, 2014

…Ms. Mancini has not only lost her beloved father, she’s been put on unpaid leave from her job as an ER nurse in Philadelphia. Her husband, a paramedic, must work two jobs to keep up with their bills, including more than $100,000 in legal fees that they already have incurred.

Had this case happened in Cabot Cove, Maine, the fictitious town where much of “Murder, She Wrote” takes place – and if I were writing the story – I would have [sleuth Jessica] Fletcher urging the attorney general to drop this case against Mancini.

And do you know what? That’s exactly what would happen. Yes, prosecutors take an oath to uphold the laws of the jurisdiction in which they serve, but they also have broad discretion in choosing which cases to pursue.

[Harrisburg, Pa.] Patriot-News, Editorial, “No. 6 – The Tom Corbett/Kathleen Kane feud: 13 for ’13,” Dec. 26, 2013

Kane made national headlines — and attracted criticism — for her office’s decision to pursue an assisted-suicide prosecution against Barbara Mancini, a nurse, who provided her 93-year-old father who was dying of diabetes, kidney failure, and heart problems, along with painful arthritis, with a dose of the morphine he was legally prescribed.

Los Angeles Times, Columnist Steve Lopez, “Pennsylvania case a chilling one for death-with-dignity advocates,” Nov. 5, 2013

Yourshaw was in hospice care at the time and gravely ill, with renal failure and multiple other life-threatening conditions. While his daughter was caring for him, he asked for some morphine and she handed it to him. Shortly after he took it, a hospice nurse arrived and dialed 911, and Yourshaw was revived even though, according to published reports, he had signed a do-not-resuscitate order.

He died four days later.

“He knew he was dying but he accepted dying, and my mother-in-law had accepted that he wanted to die,” said Joe Mancini, who described how his father-in-law, a World War II veteran, had become so sick “he’d be screaming in pain” just having his shirt buttoned.

Having watched my own father wither away in his last days of hospice care, I can say with certainty that if he’d asked for morphine, I’d have given him as much as he wanted. I’d have given it to him whether he wanted it to ease his pain or whether he’d made it crystal clear that he wanted me to help him die. And the idea that such an act of love and compassion can be considered a crime is beyond my comprehension.

The [Allentown, Pa.] Morning Call, Columnist Paul Carpenter, “Assisted suicide prosecution in Schuylkill County faces compelling challenge,” Sept. 21, 2013

This past week, a “petition for habeas corpus” seeking the dismissal of charges against Mancini was filed in Schuylkill County Court. In addition to citing particulars of the rulings being defied by Kane, the petition makes other compelling points about the propriety of the prosecution.

First, Mancini’s father, Joseph Yourshaw, was given a prescription for morphine, he had access to it in his home, and he was capable of administering it to himself, which is what happened after his daughter handed him the bottle on Feb. 7.

Second, there is no evidence that Mancini knew how much morphine was in the bottle, so there is no way she could have intended it as an avenue to suicide.

Third, and most disturbing, Yourshaw, suffering from terrible and terminal ailments, had a living will and a “do not resuscitate” directive that applied to any event that might lead to his peaceful death, which he stipulated should be allowed at his home and must not be prolonged….

At the hospital, he was forcibly revived in violation of his DNR directive and, when he regained consciousness, he begged the people there to “leave Barbara alone.”

Then came the most bizarre twist in the episode. “Joe was administered additional morphine while he was in the hospital,” the petition says, and he died shortly thereafter, on Feb. 11, four days after Mancini had handed him the morphine bottle.

…. it was the hospital’s morphine, not that in the bottled delivered by Mancini, that contributed to his death.

At a preliminary hearing, the petition noted, “competent testimony revealed that the only thing Ms. Mancini did was hand her father a bottle of morphine at his request.” There was nothing to indicate she opened the bottle, and on previous occasions it was clear he was capable of opening bottles and taking morphine, legally provided under prescription, by himself.

So how could Mancini be charged with a crime?

…. Under the law, if he finally decides he has suffered enough, no one would be able to help him without facing the same threats now faced by Barbara Mancini.

This is barbarism. This is the most malevolent form of sadism.

The [Scranton, Pa.] Times-Tribune, Columnist Chris Kelly (Pa. Atty. Gen. Kathleen Kane’s home town newspaper), “Prosecuting woman in dad’s death is wrong choice,” Aug. 25, 2013

Considering her recent refusal to defend the state’s ugly, unconstitutional ban on gay marriage and tight resources in her office, Ms. Kane is under increasing pressure to drop this case. She should do so not for political expedience, but because putting Barbara Mancini on trial would be cruel and futile.

The jury without a few people who have sat helpless as a loved one suffered a tardy death does not exist. Pain is a universal chord. All but the hardest among us are hard-wired to soothe it. Jurors in this case would also hear from Joe Yourshaw’s widow, who stands by her daughter. And remember that Joe rebounded from his overdose. Can anyone say beyond a reasonable doubt that the morphine caused his death? More