A Pennsylvania nurse accused of providing her terminally ill father with enough morphine to kill himself faces a preliminary hearing Thursday, charged with aiding suicide.
Barbara Mancini denies that her 93-year-old father was planning suicide and says they both were only looking to alleviate his pain, said Kathryn Tucker, a lawyer with Denver-based Compassion and Choices.
"Dying patients have a federal, constitutional right to medicine that relieves their pain even if it advances the time of death," said Tucker, who is asking state Attorney General Kathleen Kane to drop the case. "His doctors believed he had less than six months to live. As has been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court, he had the right to have as much morphine as he needed to get relief."
However, according to the police report, Mancini told the officer responding to the scene on Feb. 7, "that her father had asked for all of his morphine so he could commit suicide and she provided it. She further stated that he was on hospice care, was already dying, and did not want to be taken to the hospital or treated."
Defense Attorney Frederic J. Fanelli said that despite what the police report says, Mancini never said she had any intention of aiding her father in committing suicide.
"Her only intention was to see her father get relief from his pain. His body had failed him, his body had quit working, but mentally he was there," Fanelli said.
Joe Yourshaw was under home hospice care in Pottsville, Pa. He suffered from end-stage diabetes, extensive heart and cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disease and arthritis. He took morphine to manage his pain.
"He was prescribed morphine," Fanelli said and he asked his daughter to hand him the bottle. "Did he exceed his own prescribed dosage? Probably. We don't know."
A hospice nurse called 911 after discovering the overdose. Pottsville EMTs arrived and transported Yourshaw to the hospital, against Mancini's wishes. He died four days later.
The death certificate, which was issued in June, lists the immediate cause of death as "morphine toxicity" that complicated high blood pressure and heart disease.
"It's nonsense that someone can die from morphine toxicity four days later," Fanelli said. "It's unsupported medically and it's unsupported scientifically and it just doesn't make sense."