End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Death with Dignity

The case of Barbara Mancini, charged with assisting in her 93-year-old father’s suicide, underscores a need to reform end-of-life care

By Nick Valada
The Philly Post
August 2, 2013

When it comes to marriage, State Attorney General Kathleen Kane proved herself ahead of the political curve earlier this month with her rejection of Pennsylvania’s anti-gay marriage laws despite a fair amount of political pressure from her bosses. Death, however, appears to be too much, even for a democrat. Kane’s office proved that much yesterday with a Schuylkill County judge giving the go-ahead in the prosecution of Philadelphia nurse Barbara Mancini, 57, who the state alleges assisted her 93-year-old father in an apparent suicide back in February of this year.

The circumstances, however, are hardly that clear. Joe Yourshaw, Mancini’s father, was in home hospice treatment for end-stage diabetes when he asked his daughter for a bottle of drinkable morphine to treat pain associated with his condition after a fall he had recently sustained. Mancini reportedly obliged, leaving her father to treat his ailment.

A hospice nurse stopped by Yourshaw’s home following an unanswered phone call, and found him unresponsive in his bed. Authorities then transported Yourshaw to a hospital for treatment where he was revived and died four days later after a hospital-administered morphine injection, despite a clear do-not-resuscitate order. His official cause of death is listed as a homicide. More

Compassion Is Not a Crime

By Barbara Coombs Lee
Compassion & Choices
Aug 2, 2013

Click here to sign the petition demanding the Attorney General drop this unjust case.

Yesterday, August 1, a Pennsylvania woman named Barbara Mancini endured the first of what may be many days in court, declaring her innocence and fighting for her liberty. An aggressive criminal prosecution by the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office is underway, and she must respond to charges that acting out of love and compassion for her dying father was a crime.

Last February, 93-year-old Joe Yourshaw was under hospice care in his hometown of Pottsville, Pennsylvania. He was dying from multi-system failure, end-stage diabetes, extensive heart and vascular disease, stroke and kidney failure. He took morphine prescribed by his hospice physicians to relieve his pain. His daughter Barbara is a nurse, and she was helping to care for him.

The police report and criminal complaint make claims about a crime based on motives and intentions. But the undisputed facts are these: Barbara was at his bedside when he drank the partially filled bottle of morphine and lost consciousness. A hospice nurse arrived, and the hospice called 911. EMTs transported Joe to the hospital, over objections that he wanted to die at home. At the hospital they injected Narcan to counteract the morphine and he woke up, irate at finding himself hospitalized. Hospital staff provided extensive medical care, including morphine, until he died there four days later. A coroner declared Joe died from “morphine toxicity” and pronounced his death a homicide. More

Nurse Charged With Assisting In Her Father’s Death

By Richard Knox
NPR News
July 31, 2013

A Philadelphia nurse has been charged with assisted suicide for allegedly providing her 93-year-old father with a lethal dose of morphine.

Authorities say Barbara Mancini, 57, told a hospice nurse and a police officer on Feb. 7 that she provided a vial of morphine to her father, Joe Yourshaw, to hasten his death.

Mancini and her attorneys acknowledge she handed the medication to her father, but maintain she never said she intended to help him end his life and was only trying to help her father ease his pain — an act they say is legally protected, even if it causes death.

“Barbara did not, would not, would never hand medicine to her father with the sole purpose — or with even a remote purpose — that he was going to intentionally end his life on her watch,” Mancini’s lawyer, Frederic Fanelli, told reporters during a teleconference Wednesday. “It’s ridiculous, it’s abhorrent that they would even say that.” More

One Woman’s future depends on AG Kane’s constitutional consistency: As I See It

By Barbara Coombs Lee and Kathryn Tucker
The Patriot News
August 1, 2013

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is getting political heat for saying that she will not defend the state’s ban on marriage equality in a federal lawsuit, calling the prohibition “wholly unconstitutional.”

She explained to The Washington Post: “If there is a law that I feel that does not conform with the Pennsylvania state constitution and the U.S. Constitution, then I ethically cannot do that [defend it] as a lawyer.”

As attorneys, we agree it is unethical to defend unconstitutional laws. It follows that Kane’s office should also not pursue a case that impinges on an individual’s constitutional rights. That’s why her office should drop an unsupportable assisted suicide case against a Philadelphia woman. Her preliminary hearing is today. More

Pa. Atty. Gen. Should Drop Case Against Woman Who Cared for Her Dying Father

Contact: Sean Crowley, 202-495-8520

End-of-Life Legal Experts Say State’s Case Has No Legal Foundation

(Pottsville, Pa. – Aug. 1, 2013) Following a preliminary hearing today, legal experts from the nation’s leading end-of-life choice group urged the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office to drop an assisted suicide charge against a woman who was present when her 93-year-old, terminally ill father ingested morphine to relieve his pain and later died because the case has no legal foundation. Authorities allege that Barbara Mancini, a registered nurse from Philadelphia, handed her father, Joe Yourshaw of Pottsville, a partially filled bottle of morphine at his request. They claim that this act constitutes “assisted suicide.”

Joe Yourshaw was dying. He suffered from multiple medical conditions that caused him extreme pain: end stage diabetes, extensive heart and cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disease, and arthritis. Dying patients have a constitutional right to adequate pain medication, even if it advances the time of death. The U.S. Supreme Court recognized this right in two landmark cases, Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill, both brought by Compassion & Choices’ predecessor organization, Compassion in Dying. More