This week, an absurd case against a grieving daughter finally came to an end. On the one year anniversary of her father’s death, Barbara Mancini learned Schuylkill County Judge Jacqueline Russell dismissed Pennsylvania Attorney General’s case against her.
Judge Russell minced no words in taking the State to task in her 47 page opinion about why she dismissed the case. According to a story in Philly.com:
“A jury may not receive a case where it must rely on conjecture to reach a verdict.” The case “would not warrant submission to a jury due to the lack of competent evidence,” she continued, adding that “the commonwealth’s reliance on speculation” served “as an inappropriate means to prove its case.”
Mancini, a nurse, faced charges of criminal assisted suicide for handing her father, a terminally ill 93-year-old in hospice care, his valid prescription for morphine. She was arrested not long after a hospice nurse found Mancini’s father unconscious, talked to Mancini about her father, and called the police and paramedics. Against her father’s documented end-of-life wishes, her father was then taken to a local hospital and revived. Four days later, he died.
I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t pretend to know all of the ins and outs of this particular case, but I do know scenarios like this happen every day in every state. Throughout the US, terminally ill people are getting help to die through a wink-wink, nudge-nudge, “take as much of this prescribed medication as necessary.”
The difference with this case was a healthcare worker acted against a family’s wishes and an overzealous attorney general decided to make a political statement by bringing charges against Mancini. What should have been a private time for the family to grieve the death of Mancini’s father became political theater leaving Mancini out of work and saddled with over $100,000 in legal bills.
It’s a relief to see this case come to an end. I agree with the judge that it never should have happened in the first place. I hope the Mancini family is able to rebuild their lives and take time to finally grieve the loss of their loved one.
For me, this case was another example of why the work we do at the National Center matters. People should be able to have open and honest discussions with their doctors about how they want to live and die in their final days. It’s well past time to time to take what’s already happening out of the dark and bring it into the light.
By bringing these valid conversations out into the open and outlining the process with clear safeguards, Death with Dignity laws ensure the decision to hasten an inevitable and impending death rests fully in the hands of the person who’s dying, and no one else.
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