Judge weighs daughter's assisted suicide charge

Associated Press

POTTSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania judge will be asked Thursday to dismiss an assisted suicide charge filed against a nurse in her 93-year-old father's death while on hospice.

Barbara Mancini has the vocal backing of a group called Compassion & Choices, which supports "aid in dying" and other end-of-life options.

Mancini, 57, of Philadelphia, is accused of giving morphine to her terminally ill father, Joe Yourshaw, at his Pottsville home in February.

Defense attorneys call her a loving daughter who only handed him the bottle of morphine at his request. They also argue that there's no evidence the morphine killed him.

Yourshaw died at a hospital four days later after a hospice nurse who stopped by called 911, despite a "Do Not Resuscitate" order. Yourshaw, who had end-stage diabetes, heart disease and other medical problems, was given a drug antidote and then more morphine during the hospital stay, the defense has said.

A lower court judge has already approved the charges after a preliminary hearing, after Pottsville Police Capt. Steve Durkin testified that Mancini had said "her father wanted to die and she gave him the morphine." Now the issue will be argued before Common Pleas Judge Jacqueline Russell.

A gag order prevents either side from commenting on the case outside of court. The Attorney General's Office is handling the prosecution because of a local conflict in Schuylkill County.

Assisted suicide is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Thousands of people have signed a petition urging the case be dropped, according to Compassion & Choices.

In one case on point, the U.S. Supreme Court has said dying patients can receive adequate pain relief, even if it hastens their death.