City Paper Longread: “A Bitter End”

By Emily Guendelsberger (City Paper) – One thing that nobody disagrees about: Joseph Yourshaw wanted to die.

Mancini, an emergency room nurse, lives in Roxborough, two hours away from her parents’ home in Pottsville. She helped her father with the official parts of the big decisions he made about his end-of-life care — helping him make a living will and a Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR) in 2010, when he was 91, and serving as his health-care power of attorney.

Her father would often tell her that he wanted to die, she says. “I usually wouldn’t say anything, I’d just listen to him. I’d say, ‘I know, Dad. I know you don’t like living like this.’ What am I going to say? ‘I know it’s hard for you.’”

The constant talk of death was rough on Yourshaw’s wife, Marguerite, who was 83 at the time. “But he needed to say it,” says Mancini. “He said it to me, he said it to anyone who came in the house.”

He certainly said it to employees of the Hospice of Central Pennsylvania — their notes on Yourshaw from periods in 2012 and 2013, when he was enrolled in their home-care program, read like a broken record. Under the heading Most Important to Patient Now, hospice workers wrote, over and over: “Pt [patient] wants to die,” “pt states he is ready to die,” “just wants to die.” His DNR is also noted in every entry.

Records from Yourshaw’s first hospice stay in spring of 2012 note that he was refusing to take any medicines for his high blood pressure or diabetes, and that “he is trying to ‘will himself to die’ by refusing to eat, take meds, etc. … Pt. appears to be trying very hard to die a.s.a.p.”

But he couldn’t seem to die.

Full long-form story.

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