Prosecution of People Who Assist the Dying Must End
Okay, I admit it. I helped my father last year to die quicker in a Connecticut rehab center, and I was also witness to an assisted suicide in New York.
It’s time that we put this stuff out in the open and stopped the brutal prosecutorial nonsense around this issue.
As I write this, Barbara Mancini, a 57-year-old nurse here in the punishment state of Pennsylvania, has been charged with a serious felony, and is facing up to 10 years in jail because she put the morphine prescription for Joseph Yourshaw, her dying 93-year-old father, who was in home hospice care but in pain from terminal diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease, into his hands as he requested, so he could terminate his life.
Her father, a decorated WWII veteran, had expressed a desire to end his life at home and to receive no further medical intervention. He understood that he could do that by taking too many doses of morphine, and his daughter gave him the opportunity to make it happen. Unfortunately, the hospice nurse arrived at the home after he had done so, was informed of the action by Mancini, and called 911. Against his earlier stated wishes, Yourshaw was hauled off, comatose, to the hospital, where he was subjected to the medical establishment’s most strenuous efforts to perversely prolong his doomed life, and he died four days later just where he didn’t want to be: hooked up to life support in a hospital bed.
Then, piling on, the prosecutors stepped in, and went after Mancini.
Don’t they have anything better to do?
So back to my father and that New York assisted suicide.
Dad was 89 and in failing health though mentally sharp, when he fell badly, hitting the back of the base of his head on the bedpost so hard it broke off the corner of the bed frame. Rushed to the hospital, he was found to have a cranial bleed that was putting pressure on his brain. Over the next few weeks, shuttled between rehab facility and hospital three times, he gradually lost what control he still had over his arms and legs, eventually even losing his ability to speak or to swallow. He contracted pneumonia and an iatrogenic intestinal infection that was spreading through hospitals across the country at the time. Eventually, he made it clear to me and my siblings that he was done with medical care, and was put in a hospice bed at a local rehab center, He made it clear that he wanted no medical intervention, no food and no water. He would be dead in a matter of days, and knew it. The hospice nurse prescribed morphine, which was given orally, both to relax him, to ease any pain he was feeling, and to ease his labored breathing from the pneumonia. The prescription called for a dose every 1-4 hours as needed to keep him breathing easily.
While dad was still conscious, we told him jokes, sang songs to him, and talked to him. He enjoyed the company, but was clearly fading. Eventually, he lost consciousness. When his breath would become difficult, a nurse would be called, and she’d administer morphine. At that point, I asked the duty nurse why they were coming in only every four hours with the morphine. “You are allowed to give it every hour, so why don’t you just give it to him every hour?” I asked. “Why are we dragging this on?”