Nurse Charged With Assisting Dad's Suicide

PHOTO: Barbara Mancini and Joe Yourshaw,
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Barbara Mancini, the Philadelphia nurse who is being charged with assisting in the suicide of her 93-year-old father, is pinning her hopes on Pennsylvania's attorney general to drop felony charges that could send her to jail.

Mancini, 57, is alleged to have given her ailing father, Joseph Yourshaw, a lethal dose of morphine to hasten his death.

She's charged with "recklessly endangering another person" and "aiding suicide," according to the criminal complaint, obtained by ABCNews.com.

The case hinges on whether Mancini gave her father the morphine to help relieve his pain, as she claims, or to help him commit suicide. A hospice nurse at his home in Pottsville, Pa., reported her to police.

Yourshaw reportedly was taking prescribed morphine for a variety of painful illnesses: end-stage diabetes, heart and cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disease and arthritis. The state must prove that Mancini intended to help her father die.

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On Thursday, Mancini appeared at a preliminary hearing in the case in Pottsville, a central Pennsylvania town of 14,000, to make way for an arraignment. The defense attorneys are expected to file a motion to dismiss and if that fails, there will be a trial.

The advocacy group that is supporting Mancini, Compassion and Choices, has called the charges "a grave injustice" and say it is likely to go to trial.

"The legal bar is pretty low," said the group's spokesman Sean Crowley.

Mancini is being charged under a Pennsylvania state law that makes it illegal to assist in suicide.

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Police say that on Feb. 7, Mancini told the officer who arrived at the scene "that her father had asked for all of his morphine so he could commit suicide and she provided it," according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "She further stated that he was on hospice care, was already dying, and did not want to be taken to the hospital or treated."

Mancini's lawyer, Frederic J. Fanelli, was unavailable for comment because of a court gag order. But beforehand, in a teleconference on Wednesday sponsored by the advocacy group Compassion and Choices, he said she handed the medication to her father to help ease his pain, but never intended to help him die.

"Barbara did not, would not, would never hand medicine to her father with the sole purpose -- or with even a remote purpose -- that he was going to intentionally end his life on her watch," he said. "It's ridiculous, it's abhorrent that they would even say that."

"Her only intention was to see her father get relief from his pain," he said. "His body had failed him, his body had quit working, but mentally he was there."

Compassion and Choices has called for Attorney General Kathleen Kane to drop the case against Mancini, saying the state law is unconstitutional. In an editorial in the Harrisburg-Patriot News, they cite two Supreme Court rulings that give dying patients the Constitutional right to pain medication: Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill.

Lawyers for Mancini say that her father was unresponsive after the morphine dose, but did not die. He lived for four more days at the hospital, where he received normal doses of the medication, which are typically administered for pain, and died, they said.

"Barbara was visiting her 93-year-old father who was terminally ill, which was why he was receiving hospice care and he was in great pain," said Compassion and Choices spokesman Crowley. "He had gotten morphine prescribed by hospice and he drank some morphine when she was present. The state alleges she handed it to him."

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