End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Death with Dignity

70% of Mass. voters want more end of life choices

The bill would allow terminally-ill patients to self-administer a prescribed, life-ending drug

[Excerpt of article]

BOSTON (WWLP) – End-of-life option supporters delivered nearly 7,000 petitions signed by voters who support “Death with Dignity.” The bill would give an adult with less than six months to live the option to self-administer a prescribed, life-ending drug. Campaign Manager, Marie Manis, said the proposed bill will offer more choices to terminally-ill patients.

“Many people get a prescription and don’t ever even fill it, but they have the peace of mind knowing that they don’t have to have an awful, horrible ending,” said Marie Manis of Compassion & Choices.

A “Death with Dignity” ballot failed in 2012, but not by much. 51% of Massachusetts voters rejected the idea of legalized suicide.

Read the full article here.

‘Death With Dignity’ supporters want Mass. lawmakers to take up bill

[Excerpt of article]

(NECN: Alison King) – Massachusetts voters rejected a Death With Dignity law in 2012, but right-to-die supporters on Wednesday say they’re not giving up.

The legislation would allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults the right to end their lives.

“I really feel that when I’m terminally ill, that when it comes my time, that I would like to have some ability to make decisions on how I’m going to die,” Watertown resident Susan Shapiro says.

Shapiro is a clinical worker who has recurring cancer.

“People are afraid to talk about death and its very frightening to them,” she says, “but I think when you talk to people individually, a lot of people would want to have that choice.”

Read the full article here.

Newspapers urge Pa. Atty. Gen. not to appeal dismissal of assisted suicide case against Barbara Mancini

Since a judge’s Feb., 11 dismissal of the unjust “assisted suicide” case against Philadelphia nurse Barbara Mancini for the death of her terminally ill, 93-year-old father Joe Yourshaw, many Pennsylvania newspapers have published columns or editorials urging Pa. Atty. Gen. Kathleen Kane not to appeal the ruling. Kane faces a Mar. 13 deadline to file an appeal, but the newspaper columns and editorials are blasting her office for even bringing the case in the first place. The most recent one today by The [Allentown] Morning Call says her “credibility has been hurt” by the judge’s “scathing court ruling.”

Below are excerpts of the best columns and editorials:

The [Allentown, Pa.] Morning Call, Kathleen Kane’s credibility as state attorney general has been hurt by a scathing court ruling,” Feb. 19, 2014

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s criminal case against a woman who tried to help her dying 93-year-old father was not just weak. It was, as revealed in a scathing court ruling last week, nonexistent.

It was an outrage, although not a surprise, that the prosecution of Barbara Mancini had been approved in a preliminary hearing by Pottsville Magisterial District Judge James Reiley. Many DJs rubber-stamp anything put in front of them by prosecutors.

The surprise, a stunning one, was that the attorney general of Pennsylvania pursued this case in defiance of a state law, which should be clear to anyone who can read. She also defied a key ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The judge, however, went far beyond that, using words like “deceptive” and “strident” to describe the way Kane went after Mancini. Going by this ruling, one gets the impression that Kane has all the compassion and grace of Attila the Hun ….more

The [Harrisburg, Pa.] Patriot News (state capitol newspaper)Will Kathleen Kane finally ensure justice in Mancini case? Editorial,” Feb. 17, 2014

A word of advice to Attorney General Kathleen Kane as she decides whether to appeal a judge’s dismissal of charges against Barbara Mancini:

Don’t.                                                                

Don’t prolong the agony inflicted by an end-of-life case that produced needless suffering, both to the man who was dying and to the adult daughter who tried to abide by his wishes.

Don’t keep trying to prosecute a woman, herself a nurse, who did only what her dying father, who was in excruciating pain, asked her to do: hand him his pain-relieving medicine.

Barbara Mancini is no criminal. She told the hospice staff what she’d done for her father, 93-year-old Joseph Yourshaw of Pottsville. She knew she’d done nothing wrong. She honored his request to help relieve his pain, which is perfectly legal…more

The [Carlisle, Pa.] Sentinel, Editorial, “Our View: Appeal in Mancini case unwarranted,” Feb. 16, 2014

Judicial chastisement for prosecutorial ineptness is difficult for any lawyer to swallow. If the state’s top law enforcement officer is on the receiving end, the slapdown carries a double sting.

Such admonishment came Tuesday from Schuykill County Court Judge Jacqueline Russell to Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane regarding the commonwealth’s attempt to prosecute Philadelphia nurse Barbara Mancini on assisted suicide charges in connection with the death of her 93-year-old, terminally ill father.

Judge Russell wrote in dismissing the charges that the state’s case against 58-year-old Mancini “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.”…more

Philadelphia Daily News (Barbara Mancini’s home town newspaper), “DN Editorial: CURSE OF KANE,” Feb. 14, 2014

Attorney General Kathleen Kane…inexplicably prosecuted a dutiful, loving daughter for allegedly assisting her father’s suicide.

Kane lost the case this week against Philadelphia nurse Barbara Mancini, which was thrown out by Schuylkill County Judge Jacqueline Russell. The 47-page decision chastised Kane’s attempt to build a prosecution on “little independent investigation, significant hearsay, including double hearsay received from third persons – speculation, guess and defendant’s alleged incriminating statements.”

… The damage to Kane, of course, is of no concern compared to the horrendous damage she inflicted upon Mancini, accused of killing her father, Joe Yourshaw, 93, whom she’d been caring for in his Pottsville home duing the excruciating pain and suffering of his terminal illness …more

The [Scranton, Pa.] Times-Tribune (Pa. Atty. Gen. Kathleen Kane’s home town newspaper), Editorial, “Forgo appeal on Mancini,” Feb. 14, 2014

 It turns out that the fundamental problem wasn’t public policy, but that the attorney general’s office presented a lousy case.

The judge appears to have committed a mercy killing of a bad case. Mrs. Kane should let it go…more

DNR: A Supporter’s Story

 

Mr. Demarest powerfully exposes how the medical system  disregards the most thorough end-of-life plans with  its default mode to provide treatment – no matter the  patient’s circumstances and wishes.

The stories Mr. Demarest and others shared complement our national campaign to stop this tragedy and raise awareness to ensure that someday we’ll all be allowed to die with peace and dignity.

My father prided himself on doing everything right, by planning everything in advance. By the time he was in his 70s and I was in my 30s, he had shown me where he kept the key to his filing cabinet and where I could find his stash of silver coins. He told me about his will. And his living will.

I watched as Pop declined from a spry 85-year old who won sailing races on Glen Wild Lake and traveled to China and all over the United States to run his business, to a 95-year old who hobbled around, first with a couple of canes, then a walker, and finally in a wheelchair, while his wife Eileen ran the business.

During this decline, we discussed his living will more than once. When the time came, there were to be no heroic measures. There were to be no feeding tubes and no respirators, no CPR and no defibrillation. We neglected to discuss the most important part of his living will. Under just what circumstances were there to be no heroic measures? Did he believe at the age of 95, that he had reached that point? I didn’t ask, nor did I look at a copy of the living will. Everything seemed to be far off in the future, and I lived 3,000 miles away. His end-of-life plans were the responsibility of his wife, Eileen.

A few days before Pop’s 96th birthday, he and Eileen planned to go out to dinner with friends. Two of the friends, Jane and Angie, wheeled Pop out of the house and transferred him into the car. Almost immediately, he said, “I want to go home,” started to get out of the car, and slumped back into the seat, not moving. Angie interpreted his statement to mean I want to go to Heaven, and said to Pop, “it’s all right, you can go.”

Jane called 911. Pop’s house was on a long, hilly, twisty one-lane road,. and there was no expectation that emergency personnel would arrive quickly, A few neighbors came over until there were a half dozen people standing in the driveway while the minutes ticked by with Pop, or rather his dead body, sitting in the front seat of the car. During these ten minutes waiting for help, any possibility that Pop, not breathing, could survive slipped away

When the policeman arrived, he moved the body from the car to the driveway and began administering CPR. The ambulance arrived with the EMT, who continued the CPR and then used the defibrillator, applying the paddles and the electric shock to Pop’s chest. They loaded Pop’s body into the ambulance, still doing CPR, and everybody followed to the hospital where he was officially pronounced dead.

I can’t blame Eileen or Pop’s friends and neighbors for not attempting CPR, because I don’t know the wording of Pop’s living will. I’m sure that the police and the EMT followed the rules by attempting CPR and defibrillation. I’m also sure that my father never would have wanted people pounding on his dead body for more than a half hour, and that’s what happened.

At the hospital, Jane asked the EMT about the CPR and defibrillation. “Why did you do this?”

“It’s for the widow.”

– Harry Demarest

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