A Pennsylvania woman is headed to trial for allegedly giving her father the bottle of morphine that killed him. A Schuylkill County judge this month upheld the assisted suicide charge against Barbara Mancini, 57, while proponents for so-called “death with dignity” hailed her as a “hero.”
“She told me that her father wanted to die and she gave him the morphine,” Pottsville Police Capt. Steve Durkin testified at Mancini’s preliminary hearing earlier this month.
Joe Yourshaw, 93, suffered from end-stage diabetes and heart problems. Yourshaw’s hospice nurse, now a witness against Mancini, arrived at his central Pennsylvania home and called 9-1-1 soon after Yourshaw took the pills. Yourshaw initially survived and, according to Mancini’s legal advocates, came to his daughter’s defense in the hospital before dying four days later.
Mancini’s alleged actions are technically illegal in all states, but they are explicitly illegal in Pennsylvania. In Oregon, Washington, and Vermont, patients who wish to die must have a doctor’s prescription. In Montana, while no legislation legalized the practice, the state Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that a life-ending prescription does not violate state law. Mancini is a nurse, and it’s unclear how she obtained the morphine. Most cases like this result in probation.
Compassion & Choices, champions of assisted suicide and Mancini’s legal advocate, attacked state Attorney General Kathleen Kane for upholding Pennsylvania law: “This chilling precedent could impact tens of millions of baby boomers caring for their aging and dying parents.”
When it comes to legal action, Compassion & Choices is the ACLU of assisted suicide, pumping millions into the Northeast in the past year, with mixed success. Vermont legalized assisted suicide in May. But Massachusetts citizens voted down assisted suicide in a ballot initiative in November. This spring, Connecticut stymied the organization for the third time since 2009. The legislature defeated a bill in April that would have legalized the practice. It was Compassion & Choices’ second legislative effort after a judge refused to exempt physicians from Connecticut’s assisted suicide ban.
Stories about Mancini’s case usually don’t include opposing views from Christian or pro-life groups. But they’re not the only ones fighting against the practice. The community for those with disabilities, even in government, remains one of assisted suicide’s most vocal opponents. James McGaughey, executive director of the Connecticut Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, wrote a treatise against assisted suicide and Compassion & Choices’ influence in his state.
In Oregon, he said, data show most people who wanted to die weren’t seeking to alleviate current pain, but feared a future loss of “dignity” and “autonomy,” or being a “burden” for family. In other words, supporting their desire to die endorses the negative stereotypes people with disabilities deal with daily: “The State has officially … endorsed the proposition that deliberately causing death is an acceptable, possibly even preferable alternative to the prospect of living, even briefly, with a disability.”
The real, “chilling stuff,” McGaughey said, is that several Oregon Medicaid patients have received letters telling them the program would not pay for the life-prolonging treatments prescribed by their doctors, but would pay for the lethal prescription.