Casey Kasem’s Advanced Directive Lesson

Jul 17, 2014

The family of the late Casey Kasem had been locked in legal battles regarding the rights to care for the disc jockey in the years leading up to his death. Due to the nasty nature of these legal duels, they serve as elder law lesson on how to avoid elder abuse.  

Years of Back and Forth

Since being diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia in 2007, the rights to care for famed host of American Top 40 Casey Kasem had been contentiously fought over by his daughter Kerri, and her current step-mother Jean Kasem.

Under the care of his wife, Kasem’s condition dwindled and as a result,  he was shielded from contact from the public and even his own family.  Even through considerable protest from the children of Kasem’s first marriage as well as his brother, the courts denied the children’s appeal for conservatorship over their father’s care

Plagued with sores and infections, the voice-actor’s health took a steep decline following his withdrawal from a nursing home, a decision spurred by his wife in early May 2014, and subsequently led to Kerri Kasem being awarded temporary conservatorship of her father.

With legal authority, Kerri made the decision to end her father’s suffering by having judge allow the removal of the disc jockey’s artificial life support, a move viewed by Jean Kasem as a ploy by her step-daughter to hasten her father’s death and cash in on a sizable life-insurance policy.  The radio star died a short time later.

Daughter Empowered by Critical Health Care Directive

Kerri Kasem’s authority to end her father’s suffering did not stem from a 2014 ruling but rather a document signed by the two in 2007.  A health care directive, otherwise called advanced directives or medical power of attorney,  was signed by both Kerri and her father shortly after the Lewy Body Dementia diagnosis.

By executing this document, Kasem had established Kerri, and not her stepmother Jean, in charge of making medical and end-of-life decisions.

Within the document, Kasem stated that he would not  want to be kept alive if his condition “would result in a mere biological existence, devoid of cognitive function, with no reasonable hope for normal functioning.” Jean’s decision to take drastic measures during her husband’s deterioration deprived Kerri of executing what her would have wanted and depending on the true nature of the Kasem’s conditions, Jean could be considered liable for elder abuse. 

An Elder Law Lesson

The lesson to take from this sad affair is that all people, especially family elders, should execute an advanced directive in the case of a debilitating accident or injury. These documents can and will go a long way in preventing elder abuse, which is defined as:

“intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm (whether or not harm is intended) to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship to the elder. This includes failure by a caregiver to satisfy the elder’s basic needs or to protect the elder from harm.”

To avoid situations like Kasem’s, contact the legal offices of Christina Lesher at (713) 529-5900 to schedule an appointment and establish your or your loved one’s advanced directive today.  

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