Philadelphia nurse wants charges cleared in death of terminally ill father

| Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

POTTSVILLE — A Philadelphia nurse charged with aiding the suicide of her 93-year-old terminally ill father this year asked a judge to dismiss the charges.

Barbara Mancini, 57, is accused of giving morphine to Joe Yourshaw of Schuylkill County in February.

Defense attorneys argue in a Schuylkill County petition that Mancini did nothing more than hand her father his morphine bottle at his request while he was in hospice care in his Pottsville home, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Wednesday.

The defense called the state law banning assisted suicide vague and said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that dying patients have the right to adequate pain relief, even if it hastens death.

A hospice nurse who arrived at the home soon after Yourshaw ingested the morphine called 911, leading him to be taken to a hospital, where he died four days later, defense lawyer Frederick Fanelli wrote. Yourshaw — who had end-stage diabetes, heart disease and other medical problems — received more morphine during that time, he said.

“There is no evidence linking the morphine he ingested at his home to his death,” he wrote in the petition filed on Tuesday.

The Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting the case for county officials because of a conflict, is reviewing the motion to dismiss the case and had no immediate response, spokesman Joe Peters said.

According to Mancini's husband, Barbara Mancini had urged her father to seek medical care at critical times in his life, when Yourshaw was reluctant to do so. That led him to be diagnosed with diabetes and later a stroke, Joe Mancini said.

She also helped care for an ill sister and other family members, he noted.

“Barb did all of these loving things for her parents and sister despite living nearly 100 miles away, despite having two daughters to raise and homeschool, despite working a demanding job and despite everything that involves being a loving wife. Barb did all she did out of love and devotion,” the husband said in a statement released by Compassion and Choices, an end-of-life advocacy group that has taken up Mancini's cause.

Assisted suicide is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The court did not immediately set a date for possible arguments on the motion to dismiss the case.

More than 4,100 people have signed a petition sponsored by Compassion and Choices, urging prosecutors to drop the case.

Compassion and Choices hopes to file a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the dismissal motion.

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