Second-guessing by prosecutors
Attorney General Kathleen Kane attempted to cling to a rationale for her office's wayward criminal prosecution of Barbara Mancini for alleged complicity in the supposed attempted suicide of her terminally ill father.
But, at least, Ms. Kane correctly decided to forgo an appeal of Schuylkill County Judge Jacqueline Russell's emphatic dismissal of the case.
Mrs. Mancini, 58, was charged last year with assisted suicide for handing a bottle of legally prescribed morphine to her dying father, Joseph Yourshaw, 93, which he drank in his Pottsville home. A hospice nurse had Mr. Yourshaw taken to a hospital, where he received an antidote for the morphine and was revived. He died four days later, after receiving additional morphine doses at the hospital to control his pain.
According to Mrs. Kane, in a statement announcing the decision not to seek an appeal of the dismissal, Judge Russell had deemed inadmissible, as a matter of procedure, an incriminating statement by Mrs. Mancini that she had handed the drug to her father to fulfill his wish to die.
The judge, however, had much more to say: "The Commonwealth's case appears to have been based on little independent investigation, significant hearsay, including double hearsay received from third persons - speculation, guess, and defendant's alleged incriminating statements."
That analysis is damning of the investigation well beyond the issue of an inadmissible statement. According to the judge, prosecutors had not even proved that a crime had been committed.
For all the trouble that the attorney general's overreach caused Mrs. Mancini, including the loss of her job as an emergency room nurse at Lankenau Hospital in Philadelphia, Mrs. Kane's decision not to appeal at least is a proper ending.
Now, the Legislature should revisit the relevant law to ensure that families can make gut-wrenching decisions about their dying loved ones' medical care with the guidance of medical professionals rather than second-guessing by prosecutors.