Decision is Victory for Dying Patients and Families Nationwide, Compassion & Choices Says
The nation’s leading end-of-life choice advocacy organization, Compassion & Choices, praised the dismissal today of an unjust felony “assisted suicide” case against a Philadelphia nurse as a victory for dying patients and autonomy at the end of life. Schuylkill County Judge Jacqueline Russell granted the defense’s motion to dismiss the case against Barbara Mancini for the death of her 93-year-old, terminally ill father, Joe Yourshaw, of Pottsville, exactly one year to the day that Joe died. The conclusion of Judge Russell’s decision was:
“A jury may not receive a case where it must rely on conjecture to reach a verdict. As the case presented to the court would not warrant submission to a jury due to the lack of competent evidence elicited by the Commonwealth on the crime charged - with the Commonwealth's reliance on speculation and guess serving as an inappropriate means to prove its case - Defendant's petition for habeas corpus is being granted.”
Compassion & Choices and Pain Treatment Topics filed an amicus brief in support of the defense’s brief and motion to dismiss the “assisted suicide” charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
“The Mancini family’s year-long nightmare finally is over. This unjust prosecution upended this family’s life and livelihood and delayed their grieving for their patriarch Joe Yourshaw. This case demonstrates that the government has no business interfering in families’ end-of-life decisions,” said Compassion & Choices Chief Program Officer Mickey MacIntyre. “This prosecution could have chilled end-of-life decisions and pain care for millions of future terminally ill patients who simply want to die at home, peacefully and with dignity.”
Compassion & Choices also announced that its Compassion & Choices Legal Defense Fund has raised $20,000 to help reimburse the Mancini family for legal fees in excess of $100,000. Barbara Mancini has been on unpaid administrative leave from her nursing job, so her husband, Joe Mancini, has had to work extra shifts as a paramedic to make up for the lost family income.
Police claimed Barbara, 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 severe pain from end-stage diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure. A hospice nurse arrived at Joe’s home after he drank the morphine and found him unresponsive. Despite his clear instructions to hospice caregivers and a do-not-resuscitate order, a hospice employee called 911. EMTs responded and transported Joe to the hospital, where he was revived. Joe was angry to learn that police had charged Barbara with assisted suicide, a felony charge that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Joe died four days later, ironically after the hospital gave him more morphine to ease his pain.
Compassion & Choices provided pro bono legal advice and publicized the case nationally, generating 21 national and state columns and editorials criticized Attorney General Kane for pursuing this unjust case. More than 7,500 people called, signed an online letter or MoveOn.org Partner Petition sponsored by Compassion & Choices urging Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane to drop the unjust prosecution of Barbara Mancini.
With more than 30 local groups and 60,000 members and supporters throughout the United States, Compassion & Choices leads the end-of-life choice movement. We support, educate and advocate. Learn more at: www.compassionandchoices.org.