Barbara Mancini faced a felony assisting suicide charge in Pennsylvania for helping to provide home hospice care for her dying father. It sounds preposterous. But, unfortunately, that is the nightmare this Philadelphia woman experienced.
But Barbara made contact with Compassion & Choices. Our experienced staff publicized the injustice of her case; our volunteers campaigned to have the charges dropped; our generous supporters donated more than $70,000 to offset her extensive legal fees; and our legal experts advised her legal team. Barbara’s case was dismissed before it went to a full trial. Today Barbara campaigns around the country with Compassion & Choices to raise awareness of and change laws on end-of-life issues.
But her family endured a year of hell and incurred more than $100,000 in legal fees.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane pursued an unjust “assisted suicide” case against Barbara for the death of her terminally ill father, 93-year-old Joe Yourshaw, who was receiving hospice care. Police claimed Barbara, a nurse 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. Joe drank it to ease his agonizing pain from end-stage diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure.
A hospice nurse arrived at Joe’s home after he drank his prescribed morphine and found him unresponsive. Despite his clear instructions to hospice caregivers and his do-not-resuscitate order, a hospice representative called 911. EMTs took Joe to the hospital. And a police captain took Barbara to the courthouse and charged her with a felony.
When Joe was revived at the hospital, he was horrified to learn that police had arrested Barbara for trying to honor his wishes. Joe died four days later. Incredibly, Barbara faced up to 10 years in prison for this bogus “assisted suicide” charge.
This case is outrageous on many levels. It is a gross intrusion by government officials into a family’s most intimate healthcare decision making. It could have a chilling effect on the tens of millions of family caregivers trying to alleviate their loved ones’ suffering at the end of life. It could even have a similar effect on medical providers. A slew of columnists and editorial writers spoke out against this perversion of justice.
The [Washington, Pa.] Observer-Reporter, Editorial, “What ever happened to sense, compassion?” 8-23-13 “ … it is criminal and outrageous that the state should continue to pursue charges against his [Joe Yourshaw’s] daughter … Will we be required surrender our dignity to endure pain and in our final hours for fear that our loved ones may be prosecuted for attempting to relieve it?
These are just a few of the many reasons why we chose to stand with Barbara Mancini’s family to stop this miscarriage of justice.
On February 11, 2014, Judge Jacqueline Russell dismissed the case against Barbara Mancini. The judge noted that, “The evidence does not indicate that Mr. Yourshaw’s daughter had solicited, counseled, urged or convinced him to kill himself, nor does the evidence indicate that his daughter injected, administered or actively participated in Mr. Yourshaw’s actual ingestion of the morphine.”
Compassion & Choices praised the decision. Barbara Coombs Lee said, “Ms. Mancini did what any devoted daughter would do; she sat by her father and tried to comfort him as best she could. We hope prosecutors around the country have learned that prosecuting loving family members is unimaginably cruel.”