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Casey Kasem: A Top 40 Controversy

Imagine that you are at the very top of your game. You have millions of fans. Your voice is heard around the world. Your children, grown-up now, are successful; you are happily married.

And then you get sick. Suddenly, you have difficulty caring for yourself. And those you love start fighting over you.

Picture of Casey Kasem

Sounds like the sad tale of a Top 40 song.

But life imitates art, at least in the case of Casey Kasem, 81, the long-time host of several syndicated radio shows featuring each week's Top 40 hits. Admit it, you've heard it. We've all heard it. When I was growing up, my sister got a swift hook to the jaw if she didn't shut up and let me listen.

The fact that he was the voice of Shaggy on Scooby-Doo only adds to Kasem's mystique, in my book. But as great a crime-fighter as his character might have been, that's not the legal issue that now centers around him.

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Today, Kasem is in a hospital, being treated for advanced Parkinson's disease. According to court documents, he can "shuffle short distances, but is mainly bedridden and requires the assistance of a wheelchair to move any distance." Lately, his wife and children have been duking it out - not over listening to his show, but over who gets to visit and care for him.

In October, Kasem's daughter Kerri publicly confirmed her father's diagnosis. But that wasn't all. According to Kerri and her siblings, Mike and Julie, their stepmother was refusing them access to their father. Frustrated, they protested (together with their uncle) outside of their father's home.

When their stepmother, Jean, would not relent, they went to court, asking that a judge appoint a temporary conservator (or guardian) to protect Kasem's well-being. Nothing doing, said the judge. An investigation showed that Kasem was well-cared-for. And because Kasem had given his wife the power to make medical decisions for him, the children had no rights.

But last week, Julie reached a confidential settlement with Jean. While the terms are not known, it may allow for Julie to visit her father without restrictions (one of the points of contention in the litigation). Mike and Kerri, on the other hand, have not settled.

What do you think? If you were largely incapacitated, would you trust your spouse to make decisions for you? Even if it meant keeping your adult children away? Do you think the court should order visitation for the children?

Photo: Kasem in 1989 by Alan Light via Wikipedia

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