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Assisted Suicide Case in Pottsville Sent to Trial

The magisterial court ruling raises the question is the case in violation of a dying father's right to pain relief or is his daughter a criminal for providing the lethal dose.

Pottsville, Schuylkill County -- Led by her defense team, 57-year-old Barbara Mancini of Philadelphia left District Judge James Reiley's courtroom Thursday afternoon in Pottsville after she was ordered to stand trial.  The charge -- second degree felony of aiding or assisting suicide. When asked what has the ordeal been like for her and her family, Ms. Mancini replied, "I can't respond. I'm sorry."

Ms. Mancini's family armed with photos in support of her also declined comment on camera. One of the pictures is of Mancini with her father, Joseph Yourshaw, on her wedding day in 1994.  Just six months ago, a 93-year-old Yourshaw was terminally ill and in at-home hospice at his West Market Street, Pottsville home. A hospice nurse testified at the hearing that upon arriving at the home February 7th, she called 911 after learning Mr. Yourshaw had swallowed a bottle of morphine. He died four days later. Pottsville Police Captain Steve Durkin said when he arrived at the home the day of the overdose he was met by Barbara Mancini and that she told him that she gave her father the morphine because he wanted to die. He also testified that Mancini didn't want her father going to the hospital.

A Schuylkill County judge issued a gag order in the case so neither the prosecution nor the defense is talking. Gwen Fitzgerald, the director of Communications and Marketing for the end of life advocacy group, Compassion & Choices, claims what Ms. Mancini did is no crime. "Dying patients have a federal, constitutional right to as much pain medication as they need even if taking that medication would advance the time of death," she said.

The case leaves people divided in the Pottsville area. "God is the one who should take our lives when we are called off this earth. I believe that in a sense she is assisting in murder," said Ed Kopach of Port Carbon. Donna Zelinsky of Mechanicsville said, "He wanted to die. I mean he didn't want to suffer no more you know and if I was in her place I mean I would think about it but if I were in her place I would probably do the same thing."

District court judge James Reiley denied a defense request to dismiss the case. The defense wanted the charge thrown out based on two previous supreme court rulings. Ms. Mancini, who is a registered nurse, remains free on $100,000 bail. Her trial date has not yet been set.
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