13 Jun 2014

A colorful clash among members of Casey Kasem’s family has made news headlines lately over the issue of who is entitled to make health care decisions for the ailing 82-year-old radio and television icon.   Casey suffers from Lewy Body Dementia, a disease similar to Parkinson’s Disease,  which  causes a progressive decline in cognitive abilities.  The disease has rendered Casey incapable of making health care decisions for himself and also prevents him from speaking.

In May 2014, Casey resided in a convalescent  facility in Santa Monica, California until Casey’s actress wife of 33-years, Jean Kasem, quietly removed him to a location in the State of Washington without notifying Casey’s children from a prior marriage.  Casey’s daughter, Kerri Kasem, concerned about her father’s disappearance and fearful that he was not being properly cared for, petitioned the probate court in Los Angeles to be appointed his temporary conservator.  Kerri informed the court that her step-mother was attempting to prevent her and her two siblings from seeing their father and that it was unknown whether Casey was receiving proper medical treatment.  Judge Daniel Murphy granted Kerri’s petition and appointed her to serve as her father’s temporary conservator.  Shortly thereafter, local authorities in the State of Washington located Casey.

After learning of her father’s location, Kerri, with the authority of the court, arranged to have Casey transported by ambulance to a local Washington hospital for a medical evaluation.  While Casey was being moved to an ambulance, Jean threw raw meat at Kerri and said, “in the name of King David, I threw a piece of raw meat into the street in exchange for my husband to the wild rabid dogs,” citing a King James Bible verse.  Following the bizarre meat throwing incident, doctors at the Washington hospital determined that Casey was in critical condition and suffered from bed sores.

Casey’s family members were back in court earlier this week arguing about who has the authority to determine if Casey should or should not receive life sustaining treatment.  Judge Murphy, after listening to the testimony of the parties and the opinion of Casey’s treating physician that Casey was not responding to artificial nutrition and hydration, granted this authority to Kerri.  In his ruling, Judge Murphy upheld the terms of the Advance Health Care Directive that Casey signed in 2007 that gave Kerri this authority.  In the Directive, Casey stated, “[i]f the extension of my life would result in a mere biological existence, devoid of cognitive function, with no reasonable hope for normal functioning, then I do not desire any form of life sustaining procedures, including nutrition and hydration.”

It is sad that the Kasem family has had to endure these private and painful events in a public forum.  But, on a positive note, it highlights to the public how important it is that everyone have an Advance Health Care Directive stating how they would like to be treated under similar end-of-life circumstances.  Not only does an Advance Health Care Directive allow you to deal with end-of-life decisions, it also allows you to: (1) name a person (or series of persons) to act on your behalf to make health care decisions for you when you are incapable of doing so, (2) state whether you would authorize drugs for palliative care to alleviate pain even if those drugs may hasten the end of your life; (3) state how you would like your body to be handled following death (e.g., burial vs. cremation); (4) state whether or not you would like to be an organ donor and for what purposes (e.g., transplant, education, research); and (5) state any other end of life decisions that are important to you.   If you do not have an Advance Health Care Directive, it’s a good idea to arrange to sign one now so that your end-of-life decisions will be respected.

UPDATE – A few days after the court granted Kerri the right to control her father’s health care, Casey passed away.

Sources: CNN Article 6-12-14, Los Angeles Daily News Article 5-12-14, Washington Post Article 6-12-14, Los Angeles Times Article 6-11-14

If you would like to discuss this or other trusts and estates issues, please contact the attorneys at Drucker Law Offices, 468 North Camden Drive, 2nd Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, 310.285.5375 Tel, 310.444.9754 Fax, www.druckerlaw.com

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