Pennsylvania Nurse Charged with Assisted Suicide in Death of Her 93-Year-Old, Terminally Ill Father

Assisted Suicide: Pennsylvania Nurse Charged in Death of 93-Year-Old Terminally Ill Father - Babble
Barbara Mancini and her father, Joseph Yourshaw, at her wedding years ago.

Barbara Mancini, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania nurse, is facing charges in the death of her father, 93-year-old Joseph Yourshaw. Ms. Mancini, 57, is charged with “recklessly endangering another person” and “aiding suicide,” reports ABC News.

Mr. Yourshaw was reportedly taking prescription morphine for pain related to a number of illnesses, including end-stage diabetes, heart and cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disease and arthritis. He was receiving hospice care at his home in the central Pennsylania town of Pottsville. A hospice nurse reported Ms. Mancini to police, ABC News says.

Pottsville police say Ms. Mancini handed her father a bottle of liquid morphine at his home in February, leading to his death four days later, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The death certificate, issued in June, listed the immediate cause as “morphine toxicity” that complicated high blood pressure and heart disease.

Ms. Mancini maintains that she gave her father the morphine to ease her pain; the state must prove that she intended to help her father die.

Prior to the court issuing a gag order, defense attorney Frederic J. Fanelli told press that “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. It’s ridiculous, it’s abhorrent that they would even say that.”

“Her only intention was to see her father get relief from his pain,” said Mr. Fanelli. “His body had failed him, his body had quit working, but mentally he was there.”

“Joe woke up and was raising hell with everyone, [saying], ‘Why did you revive me and why is everyone picking on Barbara?'”

A hospice nurse, who told police that Ms. Mancini handed her father the morphine with the intent of assisting suicide, called 911.

The nurse “told me that her client had taken an overdose of his morphine with the intent to commit suicide,” Pottsville Police Captain Steve Durkin wrote in his report, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The hospice nurse also told Capt. Durkin that Ms. Mancini gave her father the morphine “at his request so that he could end his own suffering,” the police report stated.

When an ambulance arrived, Mancini told paramedics that her father was dying and did not want further treatment, but the police captain overruled her.

Mr. Yourshaw was revived at the hospital, but died there four days later–after doctors had given him more morphine for his pain, the Inquirer reports.

Mr. Fanelli told NPR News, “It’s nonsense to assert that one can die from morphine toxicity from a dose taken four days earlier.  It’s unsupported medically, scientifically, and it just doesn’t make sense.”

“The fact is, after he was given narcotic reversal agents in the hospital,” said Mr. Fanelli, “Joe woke up and was raising hell with everyone, [saying], ‘Why did you revive me and why is everyone picking on Barbara?'”

None of the press coverage I’ve seen mention whether or not Mr. Yourshaw had signed a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) document or had DNR identification. Pennsylvania law does empower people with end-stage disease to obtain a DNR order from a physician, and the option of wearing a DNR bracelet or necklace. Even if such identification or a document had been present, the police captain still might have overruled it, because of the accusation of assisted murder.

Physician-assisted suicide is legal, under very strict conditions, in four states: Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, according to the website Assisted suicide is a second-degree felony in Pennsylvania.

Advocacy group Compassion and Choices, which supports end-of-life choices, is helping with Ms. Mancini’s case and has launched a letter-writing campaign to Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Kathleen Kane, asking that the charges be dropped.

(Photo Credit: Compassion and Choices)

Read more from Joslyn on Babble and at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow Joslyn on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

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