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What Casey Kasem's case teaches about care planning

California residents are almost certainly familiar with the entertainment icon Casey Kasem, who had hosted Top 40 radio countdowns for decades on the nation’s radio stations. The tragic passing of Kasem – and the legal issues surrounding his end-of-life care – can serve as a cautionary tale for those who are not certain about their own care planning documents. The Kasem case brought to light a number of legal requirements that may not be commonly known by those facing important end-of-life decisions.

Experts say that Kasem had created and signed an end-of-life directive in 2007. His children had wanted to abide by the provisions in the document, which dictated that heroic measures or ongoing care for a serious condition should be withheld under certain circumstances.

Kasem’s wife, however, wanted to continue providing life-sustaining care, even in the face of his crippling dementia and inability to care for himself. Life support was withdrawn shortly after Kasem’s kids won a legal victory in California courts.

Kasem’s case teaches us a couple important lessons: First, your spouse is not considered your medical decision-maker by default. This specific designation needs to be made in care planning documents if it is truly what you desire. Some spouses prefer to designate their children as decision-makers because of personal reasons – perhaps they do not have the confidence that their spouse could truly abide by their wishes to abandon care.

Even when all of the proper documents are in place, it can be painful and challenging to end vital medical care for a relative at the end of life. Including the appropriate terminology in end-of-life care planning documents can help relatives make the right choice, even in the face of these emotional challenges. With proper planning, elders can receive the end-of-life care standard that they desire, even though their choices may not be shared by their spouse.

Source: Source: Oxford University Press blog, "Case Kasem and end-of-life planning," Edward Zelinsky, July 7, 2014

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