A Pennsylvania woman is speaking out in favor of Death with Dignity after she was charged in assisting suicide by handing her father a bottle of medication with which he attempted suicide.
Death with Dignity is a cause which has encouraged debate among those who believe in the right for terminally ill patients to end their lives with prescription medication at a time of their choosing and those who believe the action is wrong and simply suicide.
Death with Dignity legislation currently allows terminally ill patients to choose death by a prescription in three states: Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old with terminal cancer, recently shed light on the legislation when she spoke about her decision to move to Oregon in order to obtain the prescription needed to end her life before her condition worsens.
According to Penn Live, Barbara Mancini’s 93-year-old father was terminally ill in February 2013, and “was adamant that he never wanted to be in the hospital.” He expressed his wishes in writing, and was placed under the care of Hospice of Central Pennsylvania at his home in Pottsville.
Mancini’s father, Joseph Yourshaw, had a prescription for morphine to aid in pain relief and was no longer taking life-sustaining medication.
Mancini told Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes she had the bottle of morphine when her father did something surprising.
“He asked me to hand him the bottle and I did. I had the dosing syringe in my hand, and he took the cap off, and he drank what was remaining in bottle.”
Mancini said even though he acted quickly, she probably could have stopped him.
“I said ‘I think you just drank a lot of morphine there.’ He said ‘I want to go to sleep,’” Mancini said in the interview. “I just sat down next to him and held his hand he laid back and we started to talk.”
Mancini chose not to call the hospital because she knew her father wanted his death without intervention.
“It was expressly against his wishes. I promised him I would honor his wishes.”
A hospice nurse later arrived to find Yourshaw alive but unresponsive and called the police after Mancini told her what happened.
Yourshaw was taken to the hospital where he was given medication to reverse his morphine overdose. Mancini said her father was angry when he realized his life had been saved. He died four days later.
Mancini was arrested immediately for aiding in her father’s suicide, a felony for which she could have spent up to 10 years in prison.
“I felt like what I did was hand my father his medicine,” Mancini said. “He didn’t tell me ‘I was going to kill myself today.’ He said, ‘Hand me the medicine.’”
Mancini believed her father had a right to death with dignity, and had every right to take his own medication as he saw fit.
Her case was dismissed in February 2013. Mancini now testifies in states considering Death with Dignity legislation.
“I don’t know why better end of life care and death with dignity can’t coexist,” Mancini said.
She says she still thinks of her father in the ER crying out because he faced living longer than he wanted, and wishes her father could have had a choice in death with dignity.
A Death with Dignity bill, which allows patients with six months or less to live access to a medication that will end their lives at the time of their choosing, has been introduced in Pennsylvania by Senator Daylin Leach without much support, and is still in the judiciary committee.