Pennsylvania woman Barbara Mancini may be charged in the death of her terminally ill, 93-year-old father. The second-degree felony charge of "Aiding Suicide" carries a maximum ten-year sentence.
Mancini denies the charges and is fighting the case with the help of advocacy group Compassion and Choices, but the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that a hospice nurse on the scene told police captain Steve Durkin that Mancini handed her father a lethal dose of morphine with the intent to end his life:
The nurse said Mancini, who also is a nurse, gave her father the morphine "at his request so that he could end his own suffering," Durkin wrote.
When an ambulance arrived, Mancini told paramedics that her father was dying and did not want further treatment, but the police captain overruled her.
Mancini's father was later revived at the hospital only to die four days later after doctors gave him even more morphine to ease his pain.
The incident highlights many of the thorny questions surrounding right-to-die medical issues. When, if ever, is it OK to administer medication in a dosage that will likely end a life? Without prior written consent, how do you prove that this is what the deceased wanted? How, on the other hand, does the state prove in a case like this that death was the intended outcome? Where does palliative care end and "assisted suicide" begin?
These are important questions that states such as Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Montana have already begun to deal with rather effectively by establishing various legal frameworks within which to work. States that outright ban "assisted suicide" (or "aid in dying," as advocates prefer to call it) tend to chill legitimate discussion between doctors and patients, leaving a large legal grey area that sometimes results in strange cases such as this one.
Watch the Reason TV video below for an explanation of how aid-in-dying legislation works in some states and for an inside look at Montana's legal battle over the right to hasten a prolonged and agonizing death.