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Advance directives do not always work, ask Casey Kasem's family

As many Massachusetts residents are aware, Casey Kasem lent his voice to both television and radio for decades. Now, he is lying in an out-of-state hospital dying, and his family is fighting over how it will happen despite the fact that he signed an advance directive in 2007. His dilemma illustrates how sometimes families end up in court despite their loved ones having advance directives.

Doctors diagnosed Kasem with Parkinson's disease in 2007 and he then appointed his eldest children as his health care proxies. The diagnosis was later changed to Lewy body dementia. When Kasem’s health began to deteriorate, his current wife — who is not the mother of his oldest children — kept them away from him. The battle became heated and one of his children had to get a court order to be allowed to see her own father.

Another battle erupted when one of his daughters asked the court for a medical conservatorship of her father. At that time, the court ruled that the care his wife was giving him was adequate and denied the daughter and her husband the right to make decisions regarding Kasem's healthcare. That was in the fall of last year. Since that time, Kasem's health has continued to deteriorate, and at the end of May, the judge ordered him to be seen by medical personnel to assess his health.

On June 1, he was removed from the Washington home where his wife was keeping him and taken to a hospital. He is listed as being in critical condition and his advance directive has now taken affect. His wife was not pleased and went to court claiming that his eldest children only want him to die sooner in order to receive their inheritances. At first, the judge contradicted the wishes stated in Kasem’s advance directive, but recently reversed that decision.

In the majority of cases, advance directives are followed without any — or at least minimal — confrontations with family. When it comes to the last days of the life of a loved one, it can be difficult to let go. As some Massachusetts residents may know, this can lead to court battles that may only serve to extend the suffering of the loved one who is about to die.

Source: CNN, "Casey Kasem's family feud: Judge allows water, food infusions stopped", Alan Duke, June 11, 2014

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