jump to example.com
newsletter linked in

One woman’s future depends upon constitutional consistency

gay-equalityBy Barbara Coombs Lee and Kathryn Tucker

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is getting political heat for saying that she will not defend the state’s ban on marriage equality in a federal lawsuit, calling the prohibition “wholly unconstitutional.” She explained to The Washington Post: “If there is a law that I feel that does not conform with the Pennsylvania state constitution and the U.S. Constitution, then I ethically cannot do that [defend it] as a lawyer.”

As attorneys, we agree it is unethical to defend unconstitutional laws.  It follows that Kane’s office should also not pursue a case that impinges on an individual’s constitutional rights. That’s why her office should drop an unsupportable assisted suicide case against a Philadelphia woman. The preliminary hearing is Aug. 1.

Barbara Mancini was present when her 93-year-old, terminally ill father ingested morphine to relieve his agony.  In a perversion of justice, the state filed assisted suicide charges against Barbara in the death of her father, Joe Yourshaw, who lived in Pottsville.

In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that dying patients have a constitutional right to as much medicine as needed to relieve their pain even if it advances the time of death. The Court’s finding came in two landmark cases, Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill,   both brought by Compassion & Choices’ predecessor organization, Compassion in Dying. Justice O’Connor’s puts it this way in her often quoted concurring opinion inWashington v. Glucksberg: “…a patient who is suffering from a terminal illness and who is experiencing great pain has no legal barriers to obtaining medication, from qualified physicians, to alleviate that suffering, even to the point of causing unconsciousness and hastening death.”

Prosecution of Mancini is an assault on a loving daughter and a violation of dying patient’s constitutional right to pain relief. Mancini’s father was receiving hospice care at home and authorities allege that Barbara, a registered nurse, handed him a partially filled bottle of morphine at his request. They assert that this act constitutes “assisted suicide.” A hospice nurse who arrived shortly afterward called 911. Yourshaw was revived at the hospital, only to die there four days later. Ironically, doctors prescribed morphine to treat his symptoms while he was hospitalized.

Assisted suicide statutes weren’t intended to apply to this kind of death. They rightfully take aim at those who encourage a mentally unstable person to take his life violently. For example, in a November 2010 Schuylkill Haven, Pa. case, 26-year-old David Fitting gave a gun to his 27-year-old friend Andrew Mullins after Mullins drank alcohol and told Fitting: “My life has no meaning.” Mullins shot himself and Fitting was charged under the state’s assisting suicide statute. This is “assisting a suicide.” Helping a terminally ill man relieve his pain is not.

Joe Yourshaw suffered from many medical conditions, including end stage diabetes, extensive heart and cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disease, and arthritis. The cumulative burden of his multiple medical problems caused great suffering.  Joe consistently and repeatedly stated the hope that he would die peacefully at home, but police authorities robbed him of his wish.

The state should respect Joe Yourshaw’s constitutional right, as a dying patient, to receive as much pain relief as needed even if it advances the time of his death. Attorney General Kane should act to honor this right by dropping the unjust prosecution of his loving daughter. Otherwise, it could ruin Barbara Mancini’s life.

 

Barbara Coombs Lee is President of Compassion & Choices, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life. Previously, she had a 25-year career as a nurse and physician assistant and often cared for terminally ill patients. Kathryn Tucker is the Director of Advocacy and Legal Affairs for Compassion & Choices and served as lead counsel in Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill. She also is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Discussion
 
Top Stories
a

Game Notes: UVA football opens ACC play at Duke

UVA football (1-3, 0-0 ACC) opens its 2016 ACC schedule at Duke (2-2, 0-1 ACC) on Saturday in Durham.

Viewpoints: Craft beer grows in popularity in Virginia

Craig Nargi hadn’t planned on brewing his own craft beer. He’d started innocently, trying to find a market for the hops he was growing at Hermitage Hill Farm in Augusta County.

Podcast: UVA, VMI football previews, president stuff

AFP editor Chris Graham previews this weekend's football games with VMI and UVA, and talks presidential race politics.

Winter weather forecast: Frequent snow in Northeast, crop-damaging freeze in South

AccuWeather reports it will feel like an extended winter for those living from the northern Plains to the eastern U.S.

Podcast: How will the debate impact the polls?

AFP editor Chris Graham wraps the first 2016 presidential debate, offers thoughts on how the polls will register post-debate, how Donald Trump may respond to his poor performance, and the switches gears and talks UVA and VMI football.

Waynesboro Public Schools to celebrate Walk to School Week Oct. 3-7

Waynesboro Public Schools will be celebrating Walk to School Week to emphasize the importance of creating safe routes to school.

AAA: Gas prices starting to stabilize

Gas price hikes have slowed to a halt after rising a total of 13 cents per gallon on average since Sept. 16 due to disruptions on the Colonial Pipeline.

Report: Augusta County Courthouse requirements overstated

Population projections used to estimate the amount of courthouse space Augusta County will need are outdated, according to a UVA analyst.

Clown sighting nonsense finds its way to Augusta County

The Augusta County Sheriff's Office received a report of a clown sighting, meaning, yes, the nonsense has come our way.

#WhyIWalk: Cheyenne

I walk because on March 19, 2013 my sister that was only 13 months older than me died by suicide.

 
Recent News

Viewpoints
 
Hosts Chris Graham and Crystal Graham of Augusta Free Press highlight local news and newsmakers with an emphasis on the Shenandoah Valley on Viewpoints on WVPT.

Join the conversation on WVPT's Facebook page.

Chris Graham is the editor of Augusta Free Press, ESPN3 baseball broadcaster and the author of five books. Crystal Graham is the award-winning former host of WVPT’s Virginia Tonight.

Show airs Wednesday nights at 7:30 p.m.

Want to see what's coming up on Viewpoints? Click here.

Missed a show? Watch OnDemand and on our YouTube channel.

Past shows are also available via the PBS app wherever it is available (iOS, Xbox, Roku, Android, etc). Videos will be found more easily if you localize the app and select WVPT as your local PBS station.

AFP Business

Your One-Stop Media Shop

Augusta Free Press LLC provides clients in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia and beyond with marketing and PR solutions including web design, magazine/brochure, TV/radio, social media and overall marketing campaign design and implementation.
 

Advertise

Get information on readership and advertising online with us.


AFP Classes

Augusta Free Press offers a series of hour-long classes on website design, marketing strategy, social media, event planning and more.


Web Design

You want a new website, but don’t have the first clue as to how to build one. That’s our job. Get your business online for as little as $1,299.


Graphic Design

Whether you need a fresh business card design, rack card, ad, flyer or full magazine design, we can help with all your graphic-design needs.


Marketing/PR

Augusta Free Press manages advertising campaigns for small- and medium-sized businesses across Virginia. You don’t need to hire a full-time marketing coordinator. Bring the experience of the Augusta Free Press team to work for you – for a fraction of the cost.


Search Engine Optimization

The prettiest website in the world is like a tree falling in the forest with no one there to hear it. If your website hasn’t been search engine optimized, no one is going to see it or hear it – and it’s not going to work for you.


Video/Audio

Web videos, TV and radio commercials, DVDs – Augusta Free Press LLC has you covered when it comes to video and audio production.