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Assisted suicide charge dropped against Pa. woman

A Pennsylvania judge threw out an assisted-suicide charge Tuesday against a nurse accused of handing her 93-year-old terminally ill father a bottle of morphine, a decision that brought elation and relief to the defendant and her family one year to the day after his death.

The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office failed to prove a crime occurred and based its case against Barbara Mancini on speculation and guesswork, Schuylkill County Judge Jacqueline L. Russell said.

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Mancini, 57, of Philadelphia, was charged last summer with giving a nearly full bottle of morphine to her father, Joseph Yourshaw, at his Pottsville home in February 2013 for the purpose of helping him end his life. Yourshaw died at a hospital four days later after a hospice nurse called 911.

The judge said that prosecutors had neither established that Yourshaw intended to take his own life, nor that Mancini helped him do it.

A lower court judge had approved the charges after a preliminary hearing at which police testified Mancini repeatedly told them she gave her father morphine because he wanted to die.

But Russell asked at a hearing last fall whether there was any evidence that Yourshaw took the morphine to relieve pain and did not intend to commit suicide.

That was relevant because, under the law, Mancini could not be prosecuted if there was no evidence of a crime beyond the statements she gave police.

‘‘The elderly man’s statements that he desired to die are not equivalent to expressions of an intent to kill himself,’’ Russell wrote.

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