Woman seeks dismissal of assisted-suicide charge

Posted: September 19, 2013

The Philadelphia nurse charged with assisted suicide in the death of her terminally ill, 93-year-old father has asked a court to dismiss the case.

Attorneys for Barbara Mancini, 57, on Tuesday filed the petition in Schuylkill County Court. They argued that she did nothing more than hand her father, Joe Yourshaw, his bottle of morphine at his request last February while he was in hospice care at his Pottsville home.

Mancini's attorneys also contend that the state law that forbids aiding a suicide is vague; that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that dying patients have a right to all the pain relief they need even if it hastens death; and that Yourshaw's death was not a suicide because he did not die until four days later in the hospital.

"He was administered more morphine at the hospital," Pottsville lawyer Frederick J. Fanelli wrote in the motion. "There is no evidence linking the morphine he ingested at his home to his death."

Yourshaw had end-stage diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and arthritis among other medical problems, according to Mancini's lawyers.

Yourshaw, who lived with his wife, lost consciousness after taking the morphine given to him by his daughter, according to the police report. A hospice nurse then called the police and Yourshaw was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he was revived.

Mancini was arrested and charged with assisted suicide, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. At her Aug. 1 preliminary hearing, prosecutors from Attorney General Kathleen Kane's office refused to drop the charges.

More than 4,100 people have signed a petition sponsored by Compassion and Choices, an end-of-life advocacy group, urging Kane to drop the prosecution.

Contact Marie McCullough at 215-854-2720 or mmccullough@phillynews.com.

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