(Updated June 16)
A judge in Los Angeles ruled June 11 that Casey Kasem‘s daughter could stop feeding and hydrating the 82-year-old radio legend and allow him to die. The order came after many months of legal battles over who had the right to visit and care for Kasem, who had a form of progressively debilitating dementia. Kasem died on June 15 in Gig Harbor, Wash.
See also: Casey Kasem: America’s DJ
Did the tumultuous family feud swirling around Kasem make you think about your own end-of-life decision-making? Here are four ways to reduce the likelihood that loved ones will fight over your care.
1. Have an attorney prepare a health care directive. An issue in Kasem’s case was which legal document was the controlling one: the one he signed in 2007, granting his daughter medical decision-making powers, or a 2011 document in which he said his wife should make those decisions. The takeaway? Be very clear about who you want to make medical decisions for you. If you are executing a document that supersedes a previous one, explain why.
2. Discuss your wishes in advance with all your loved ones. Kasem’s 2007 medical power of attorney instructed his children to stop food and hydration if he was dying, but his wife later objected. This problem might have been prevented with better communication before Kasem was at the end of his life. So if you sign a document asking that life-prolonging measures be stopped (often called a living will), make sure family members – especially those who might object – know of your decision. Also, make sure your doctor, attorney and health care agent have copies of the document so they can carry out your wishes even if family members want something different.
3. Fully answer all questions your attorney asks you. Typically, when you’re executing critical end-of-life documents, a witness will observe a conversation between you and your attorney so that he or she can attest to your capacity in the event of legal challenges like those between Kasem’s children from his first marriage and his current wife. Drexel University law professor Deborah Gordon, a trusts and estates specialist, explains that if you are very ill, your attorney may want to establish that you are mentally competent by asking you very basic questions such as your name, the time of year and your understanding of what you’re about to do in signing legal documents.
4. Decide which friends and family members you want to be able to visit you if you become very ill. One point of contention in Kasem’s situation was his wife’s refusal to allow his children to visit. The lesson? Consider asking your attorney to draw up a formal statement spelling out the details of whom you’d like to see when you’re at the end of your life. While such a document may not be legally binding, it may go a long way toward avoiding the kinds of visitation conflicts that Kasem’s wife and children experienced.
Photo: Alan Light/Wikipedia Commons
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